QUACK, QUACK!

A pet duck throws previously neighborly neighbors into discord, provoking all manner of wild imaginings by the children involved. Vicki Jones, her brother Ben, and their parents live on the edge of an English town. Everything is hunky-dory when Mrs. Spikes moves in next door—they enjoy chatting over the hedge, and Mrs. Spikes invites the children over for a glass of her secret red cordial—but when Mrs. Spikes brings home a duck for her garden pond, things delaminate. The duck won’t stop quacking; Mrs. Spikes pooh-poohs Mr. Jones’s suggestion that the duck is noisy; Mr. Jones finally blows a fuse; the neighbors stop talking to one another; and the children start to see dark doings at Mrs. Spikes’s house. They decide she is a witch who reads from a spell book (“What about that horrible syrup she made us drink,” asks Vicki about the heretofore tasty cordial) and keeps bats. When in an act of revenge, Mr. Jones gets his own duck to out-quack Mrs. Spikes’s, all goes strangely quiet. The tranquillity prompts neighbor to start talking to neighbor again, so much so that they even join yards to give the ducks access to each other. Some problems get solved in spite of themselves, the author seems to be suggesting, for there are no tactics to resolving neighborly spats being tendered here. But his expressive, comical paintings and the gentleness of the narrative put spats between neighbors in context. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2002

ISBN: 1-84270-015-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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