The majestic setup and the ensuing scatological humor make strange narrative bedfellows.

MR. SQUIRREL AND THE KING OF THE FOREST

As a result of mistaken identity, the animals of the forest deal with a smelly mishap.

Legend has it that “once in a hundred years,” the King of the Forest, a chimeralike creature “crowned with leaves” appears. Longing to see this figure, Mr. Squirrel misidentifies a mutt with leafy branches stuck in his collar as the king. The forest animals diligently abide by the “king’s” wisdom but are confused with his decree to “leave their scent wherever they lived.” They all obey, and quickly “the whole forest stank to high heaven!” The animals seek refuge on a small island in the middle of the lake “where the wisdom of the king was still unknown.” Thankfully, the rain comes, and the smell is washed away. Readers have little explanation for the setup, dropping into an exposition of the legend via a yogic billy goat. Meschenmoser undoes the initial solemnity of the story with several spreads in which Mr. Squirrel and his hedgehog friend dodge various animals’ catapulting feces. The rough lines of the muted graphite-and–colored-pencil illustrations give layered textures to the creatures and the natural environment, a style that’s interrupted by a few spreads of richly colored paintings for the legend of the king. Perhaps readers of the other Mr. Squirrel books (It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel, 2018, etc.), also translated from German, will adapt better to the tonal changes of this lengthy tale.

The majestic setup and the ensuing scatological humor make strange narrative bedfellows. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4342-4

Page Count: 64

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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