Neighborliness, sibling friendship, and bits of a fractured fairy tale can’t overcome the book’s limitations.

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VIOLET AND THE WOOF

A modern-day Little Red Riding Hood travels through her apartment building.

Violet, a determined girl wearing a short red dress, and her toddler brother, Peter, are exploring their building. Both are white. While pulling Peter’s wagon through the hallway, she starts telling him a familiar tale. In the elevator, they meet a woman with dark brown skin and white hair carrying a dog whose shadow appears to be quite ferocious. When Peter says: “WOOF!” (his only word), Violet assures him (and herself) that it’s not a wolf. Violet informs the woman that they are bringing their sick neighbor Papa Jean-Louis “soup and cookies,” and she responds, “I’ll be heading that way myself.” After traversing deep woods with animals and a “damp, dingy, cave,” they finally reach their destination, where they encounter someone all wrapped up on the couch. Is it Papa Jean-Louis? Or is it a creature with eyes “so big,” “ears so…hairy,” and teeth too sharp? Violet’s storytelling skills and overactive imagination are augmented by the colorful illustrations, done in a naïve style and combining the everyday environment and the fairy-tale world. It’s charming, but it missteps. Violet’s reassuring interjections to Peter during her own narration interrupt the flow of the story, and positioning the two dark-skinned people as objects of fear is unfortunate despite the revelation that they are clearly benevolent.

Neighborliness, sibling friendship, and bits of a fractured fairy tale can’t overcome the book’s limitations. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-244110-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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

THE DINKY DONKEY

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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But it is the parting sentence that will hit home with everyone: “But Rufus loved storytime most of all… / …because it gave...

RUFUS GOES TO SCHOOL

Rufus Leroy Williams III is determined to learn how to read, but can he convince Principal Lipid to allow a pig in school?

Rufus makes the best of his illiteracy by imagining his own stories to go with the pictures in his favorite book, but still he longs to read. The tiny pig knows just how to solve his problem, though: With a backpack, he can go to school. But Principal Lipid seems to think it takes more than a backpack to attend school—if you are a pig, that is, since pigs are sure to wreak all sorts of havoc in school: track mud, start food fights, etc. Rufus decides a lunchbox is just the ticket, but the principal feels differently. Maybe a blanket for naptime? Or promises not to engage in specific behaviors? Nope. But the real necessary items were with Rufus all along—a book and the desire to learn to read it. Gorbachev’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations emphasize Rufus’ small size, making both his desire and the principal’s rejection seem that much larger. Parents and teachers beware: The humorous pages of imagined, naughty behavior may be more likely to catch children’ eyes than Rufus’ earnestly good behavior.

But it is the parting sentence that will hit home with everyone: “But Rufus loved storytime most of all… / …because it gave him room to dream.” (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4549-0416-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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