TIMOTHY’S TALES FROM HILLTOP SCHOOL

Timothy and his classmates are back in this follow-up to Timothy Goes to School (2001) and they are as heartwarming and true-to-life as ever. Wells has a knack for portraying every character typically found in an elementary-school classroom: the bully, the spoiled princess, the quiet one, the less-than-physically-perfect, and captures their interactions perfectly. Six short vignettes covering such familiar topics as science projects, costumes, choosing the right birthday present, schoolyard sports, and teasing are accompanied by her trademark adorable bunny, cat, and beaver children in full-color spot illustrations. Fritz tries to build a particle accelerator out of toilet-paper tubes, even though the only one that’s ever been attempted cost $11 billion and still didn’t work; Nora must eat a whole box of Weeds & Seeds cereal to get the prize in the box for Yoko’s birthday present; Charles won’t give in to Claude’s bullying over who gets to be a bald eagle for Bird Day; Doris learns that health and strength are more important than being thin; Timothy and Claude have some baking mishaps during a measuring experiment; and Grace learns to be part of a team when she joins a few classmates inside the centipede costume during the Bug Week parade. Each story has a happy ending, and the trials the characters go through will be familiar to readers, letting them know that no matter what happens on the playground or in the classroom, they’re not alone. Be prepared to laugh out loud. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03554-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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DIARY OF A SPIDER

The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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