Alligator Slim decides to swap the blues for jazz, trading the swamp for the city.

He finds a hotel and auditions at a club called The Zoo. The crowd loves Alligator’s sound, but while the musicians relax after their gig, jealous Weasel steals the gator’s sax. After a fruitless search for his instrument, his money low, Alligator decides to head back to the swamp and the blues. Swinging by The Zoo for one last listen, he spots Weasel on stage. “He screeched and he blared and the audience moaned. / ‘He’s hurting our ears with that bad saxophone!’ / ‘That sax is all right!’ said Alligator Slim. / He walked up to Weasel and snatched the sax from him.” Alligator plays, reigniting the crowd, and gracefully accepts Weasel’s apology. Alligator Slim’s success reaches the swamp critters, who arrive cityside to hear him play. Pittman’s upbeat verses occasionally settle for an awkward rhyme or some bumpy scansion. “Alligator Slim was in a terrible bind! / The days went by, but his sax he did not find.” Bailey’s digital compositions pair Alligator’s glowing green with the deep purple-browns of club crowds and dark, cobbled streets lit with lamps. Her pictures teem with busy, anthropomorphic animals preoccupied in amusing ways. Pittman provides a pithy note on jazz; Bailey’s spot illustration shows Alligator’s quartet heading out on the road.

Tuneful. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4556-2422-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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