Nicky, Barkus, and Baby the kitten will appeal to fans of the Henry and Mudge series as well as to the younger picture-book...



From the Barkus series , Vol. 1

A child grows to love a new canine companion in this initial offering in a new series of early chapter books by Newbery Medalist MacLachlan.

Protagonist Nicky narrates the story, which is divided into five brief chapters with short sentences set in large type. Nicky’s new pet, Barkus, is a large, brown dog who seems friendly, smart, and well-behaved. In short, episodic chapters, Barkus joins Nicky at school, celebrates his birthday with some canine pals, and finds a pet kitten as his special companion. In the final chapter, Nicky, Barkus, and the kitten spend the night in a backyard tent, with Nicky conquering a longstanding fear of the dark. Nicky tells the dog and kitten a bedtime story, which effectively summarizes the entire book in an amusing way. Nicky and Nicky's parents are white, the teacher has tan skin, and Nicky’s classmates are a multiethnic group. Cheery illustrations with a perky, 1960s vibe feature polka-dot patterns on the cover and endpapers and depict characters with buggy, cartoon-style eyes. Illustrations on almost every page include a variety of format sizes from small vignettes to full pages, alternating between white and brightly colored backgrounds.

Nicky, Barkus, and Baby the kitten will appeal to fans of the Henry and Mudge series as well as to the younger picture-book audience. (Early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1182-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.


Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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