Not a keeper of an early reader

OH NO, BATH TIME!

From the I Am Otter series

Otter enjoys playing outside with Teddy but doesn’t enjoy baths—at first.

While the controlled text is accessible to new readers as it follows Otter’s antics outside with its stuffed animal friend Teddy, characterization in this story is rather difficult to understand without prior familiarity with Garton’s picture books about Otter. Otter is depicted as an anthropomorphic animal, and Teddy is a toy. But then lines between fantasy and reality become blurred when the (never fully seen) human character, referred to as “Otter Keeper,” insists that muddy Otter and Teddy bathe. Bubbles, bath toys, and splashing end up making the dreaded bath fun after all. It’s unclear whether Otter Keeper is an adult or a child, but it is clear that Otter Keeper is worn out when Otter asks for another bath and is refused. Rebuffed, a cleaned-up Otter brings Teddy back outside to play, and an intentional splash in a mud puddle results in the coveted second bath. The illustrations are appealing, but they are largely symmetrical with the text. This may support a new reader’s decoding efforts, but they do little to add visual interest to the staid story or to clarify its characterization.

Not a keeper of an early reader . (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-236658-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Hee haw.

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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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PUG BLASTS OFF

From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 1

A cuddly, squishy pug’s puggy-wuggy diary.

Equipped with both #pugunicorn and #pughotdog outfits, pug Baron von Bubbles (aka Bub) is the kind of dog that always dresses to impress. Bub also makes lots of memorable faces, such as the “Hey, you’re not the boss of me!” expression aimed at Duchess, the snooty pink house cat. Some of Bub’s favorite things include skateboarding, a favorite teddy, and eating peanut butter. Bub also loves Bella, who adopted Bub from a fair—it was “love at first sniff.” Together, Bub and Bella do a lot of arts and crafts. Their latest project: entering Bella’s school’s inventor challenge by making a super-duper awesome rocket. But, when the pesky neighborhood squirrel, Nutz, makes off with Bub’s bear, Bub accidentally ruins their project. How will they win the contest? More importantly, how will Bella ever forgive him? May’s cutesy, full-color cartoon art sets the tone for this pug-tastic romp for the new-to–chapter-books crowd. Emojilike faces accentuate Bub’s already expressive character design. Bub’s infectious first-person narration pushes the silly factor off the charts. In addition to creating the look and feel of a diary, the lined paper helps readers follow the eight-chapter story. Most pages have fewer than five sentences, often broken into smaller sections. Additional text appears in color-coded speech bubbles. Bella presents white.

Totes adorbs. (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53003-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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