A soft-boiled animal detective story sure to please beginning readers.


From the Mack Rhino, Private Eye series , Vol. 1

It’s up to a rhino private eye to solve a mystery and prevent a cheater from winning the Big Race.

Private eye Mack Rhino and his trusty bird assistant, Redd, are off to buy new furniture (as the rhino has splintered yet another desk chair) when a mysterious phone call offers Mack his 100th case: a mystery concerning shoes. But the harried caller, who dropped clues off at the wrong address, doesn’t give Mack much to go on. Even worse, a jailbreak at the ant farm upstate means some of the usual suspects are back in action—and likely with an ally. Meanwhile, the two favorites for the Big Race are Jackie Rabbit, who wants to donate the prize money to build a playground, and Skunks McGee, under scrutiny for his track record of cheating. Other runners experience pre-race troubles in the form of vanishing shoelaces. Mack must think fast to distract Skunks during the race so that the sabotaged Jackie can win, and then to explain how Skunks did it—the suspected team-up with the Ant Hill Gang. The clues are clear enough for the target audience of emerging readers to solve the mystery themselves (the cast size and subplots made manageable with a cast of characters and glossary), and the puns bring laughs. Black-and-white cartoon illustrations tend to highlight slapstick.

A soft-boiled animal detective story sure to please beginning readers. (Mystery. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4113-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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Hee haw.

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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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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.


From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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