A WOODPECKER'S TALE

On his first solo expedition to find food, a woodpecker named Pierce figures out how to evict a skunk from a log full of juicy bugs.

The story begins with a picture of a mother woodpecker gripping her child in a headlock as the text avers, “Pierce knew that he was old enough to leave the nest.” On the next pages, when Pierce assures his mother he is ready for independence, readers learn a nature fact—the woodpecker’s foraging process: “Find an old tree. Hammer the wood. Eat the yummy bugs.” Pierce then has difficult encounters with several woodland creatures who chase him away from their various nests. Pierce’s apparently clever use of bees as an asset to his campaign to gain access to old trees turns a nominally realistic story into science fiction. Some young readers may enjoy the humor inherent in such exaggerations as a beak accordioned by hammering. The story also allows the youngest children practice in sequencing, as Pierce systematically revisits everyone he has previously seen. The use of realistically portrayed human eyeballs in animals covered with feathers and fur is visually disquieting; an opossum playing dead is particularly grotesque. The best part of the book is at the end, where there are two carefully presented pages of facts about woodpeckers and creative activities centered on the birds.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55455-284-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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