There’s plenty of yuck-factor silliness, and the penultimate spread, of the family uniting for “cleanup hour,” is very...

FEDERICA

Dirty dishes, food and leaves on the floor, mice, nasty insects like big-eyed flies, spiders, mice, a butterfly or two—what is a tidy little girl to do?

Federica’s dad is busy with his telescope. Federica’s mum (wearing rollerblades) is occupied with her laptop and her painting. Her little brother seems perfectly content, but the “buggy, buzzy mess” amusingly pictured in the first double-page spread really bothers Federica. She goes to the park for respite. It’s full of unusual creatures: a goat and some sheep. There are also raccoons, an owl, a toad, and, of course, insects. It’s there that the young white girl thinks of a plan that will transform her messy house. There is a hint of the Yiddish folk tale familiar from It Could Always Be Worse, by Margot Zemach (1977). Federica brings all the park animals into her home, but here the animals are not meant to crowd out the humans but rather to eat the flies and mice, clean the kitchen, and consume the long grass. The resourceful girl succeeds in making her house fit for habitation again and releases the animals back to the park. The loose ink-and–Adobe Photoshop illustrations are a riot, milking the absurdity for all it’s worth. At the end, the mother rollerblades as she washes the floor, with baby brother riding the mop.

There’s plenty of yuck-factor silliness, and the penultimate spread, of the family uniting for “cleanup hour,” is very inviting. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55498-968-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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