Why ask children to think deep thoughts when you can offer a superficial variation on the common “Where’s Mama?” theme...

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WHO AM I?

Two picture-book veterans offer a phoned-in collaboration that blows off not only the Big Question it poses, but the plot, too.

A puzzled hatchling chameleon actually has two posers: “Could you tell me who I am and where I come from?” he asks of a giraffe, an elephant and a succession of other jungle animals. No, replies each, identifying itself in a patterned way—“I am the cheetah and I am the fastest animal in the whole wide world, but I do not know what sort of creature you are.” A toothy crocodile at last promises enlightenment if only the little tyke will come closer…but just as he’s is about to climb on the croc’s nose, along comes Mama Chameleon to identify her little one as “my little baby chameleon, the most beautiful and unusual creature in the whole wide world!” and whisk him away to meet his many sibs. In his loosely brushed pictures, Ross adds an ingenious detail to the narrative by having the little one adopt the colors of each animal he questions, but he contradicts Phinn’s version of the climax (having the lizard clamber atop the nose of a croc whose mouth is closer to closed than wide open as described) and, in blithe disregard for internal logic, inexplicably sends the suddenly meek crocodile packing.

Why ask children to think deep thoughts when you can offer a superficial variation on the common “Where’s Mama?” theme instead? (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8996-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series.

THE POLAR BEAR WISH

Anja and her dog, Birki, do their best to get to a Christmas party in a frozen Nordic landscape.

Anja wishes she had a dog sled to harness Birki to in order to get to the party. The next morning, her cousin Erik appears with his dog sled and an offer to take her there. Lost in a blizzard, they encounter talking wolves who take them to a tent where they can spend the night. A baby polar bear named Tiny appears, separated from his mother. The following day takes them all on an adventure through glaciers and fjords, past an ice castle, and finally to Tiny’s mother and to the party. This digitally produced book is illustrated with photographs that capture the Nordic setting. Unfortunately, the overall effect is weirdly flat, with elements awkwardly set together in images that lack depth. A polar bear perches awkwardly on top of oddly scaled pack ice; Anja and Erik spend a night in the ice castle in niches chiseled into the wall, but they seem oddly disconnected from it. The book has an old-fashioned, European feel; the white, blond children’s red caps and traditional clothing stand out against the dim, bluish winter light. But the wooden, overlong text does little to cultivate the magical fantasy feeling that it’s aiming for.

For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6566-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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