Steer clear of this one



A rat learns to bargain in this picture book from India.

At first glance, this story starring Chooheram, a rat living on the Punjab plains, looks like a perfect match in the push for increased diversity. It contains Indian references—“roti,” “palanquin,” milking a buffalo—and the richly textured illustrations exude an authentic feel. It also reveals a value system out of whack with the Western mainstream. Chooheram, digging underground during a rainstorm, finds a dry root. He gives it to a man trying to light a fire to make roti for his hungry children. Grateful, the man gives Chooheram a roti. Wonderful! Readers are learning about generosity and helping others. After a few more trades with other people, Chooheram acquires a buffalo, which he then trades for a human bride. What? Did this story just imply that females are possessions? Chooheram, peremptorily, sends his bride to the city to sell plums, where, thankfully, her mother retrieves her. At the denouement, Chooheram vows “never again would he make a bargain. For a dry root, he felt, was so much better than a bride.” To be clear: the book’s design and illustrations are wonderful; even the writing has clever moments. But the implication that women and girls are goods to be traded goes effectively unquestioned, beyond the bride’s clear unhappiness with her new rat husband.

Steer clear of this one . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-81-8190-168-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Karadi Tales

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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