A worthy message is sullied by blatant commercialism.



This rhyming picture book features young squirrels who learn to save, spend, and give back.

Narrated by a wren and using squirrels as stand-ins for humans, this pedantic rhyming story is transparent in its purpose of teaching children the whys and wherefores of prudent (mostly fiscal) living: care for the world, save, spend a little, and give back to those less fortunate. At face value, it’s a worthy endeavor, and it’s thorough—there’s a backmatter “Squirrel Manifesto Guide for Grown-Ups” that gives caregivers four steps to take to cultivate financial knowledge in children (“Tax a little. Spend a little. Save a little. Give a little”). But it’s all undone by the backmatter author bios, which take up a full page and inform readers (or rather their caregivers) that the authors run a financial services company, and in fact, its logo and that of its partner company grace this page. What could have been a solid, if heavy-handed, story about prudent, thoughtful, and charitable living turns into manipulative product placement, using a children’s story to promote a business. Illustrator Zaboski’s illustrations are colorfully busy but vary in neither palette nor presentation, and readers may tire of cutesy squirrels cavorting long before the story ends. Additionally, an illustration depicting the famous Michelangelo Sistine Chapel image but with squirrels in the role of God and Adam is as irrelevant to the story as it is odd to contemplate.

A worthy message is sullied by blatant commercialism. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4166-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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


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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