If readers are ready to forgive its confused plot, the art offers much to appreciate.

VICTOR AND HUGO

Two dogs rescue their master’s accordion—and the world’s music—in Paris.

Victor and Hugo, a terrier and a basset hound, respectively, accompany their elderly, white master, Maestro, and his accordion on the banks of the River Seine. Appreciative viewers watch their performance, but a tossed salami causes Victor, Hugo, and the accordion to fall into the river. Both dogs (who start speaking once separated from their master) are illustrated with personality and emotion, and the oft-changing perspective keeps the pace moving. However, the core of the story—that Maestro’s accordion gets stuck in a tire that constantly evades capture and that said accordion suddenly houses the music of the world—feels arbitrary and even nonsensical. Victor and Hugo, along with many Parisians, chase the accordion, which somehow ends up in a sewer that Hugo and Victor access through a hidden door. Afraid they’re stuck in the sewer for good, Victor and Hugo sing a song that makes the whole of Paris sad…and leads Maestro to them. He liberates his accordion and leads the dogs back to the streets, where everyone celebrates the return of music to the world. While Blake’s lush oil paintings evoke the colors, vibrancy, diversity, and excitement of this little slice of Paris, his story is a disjointed jumble.

If readers are ready to forgive its confused plot, the art offers much to appreciate. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-24324-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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