A delicious blend of the fanciful yet realistic.

GRUMPYCORN

A unicorn with writer’s block turns into a whole story.

Unicorn has every writer’s dream setup: a charming, cozy, isolated shack well stocked with writing supplies, friends to bring him snacks, and time to write. But he “didn’t know where to begin his story.” He assembles his special writing implements and beverages to boost his creative juices. But: “I wish an idea would come knocking at my door,” he says, and in riotously colored spreads, supportive sea creatures try to help. Narwhal asks to be a character, Mermaid brings him cookies as a bribe for a featured role, and Jellyfish bubbles over with ideas. But Unicorn refuses to see these as anything other than distractions, yelling “I can’t get ANY ideas because everyone keeps bothering me!” After he throws his notebook and special pen into the sea, his friends find the empty notebook and decide to fill it with their own story, relating everything that just happened in the preceding pages with themselves in starring roles. Each spread offers a wealth of details for readers to pore over, and the goofy sea creatures are fun and clever. Silent sea horses, trailing in the background, help bring the story to a satisfying conclusion in the endpapers. This hits just the right notes, engaging children, who will want to yell at the stubborn unicorn, and making any procrastinating adults chuckle in recognition.

A delicious blend of the fanciful yet realistic. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-61799-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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