“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”: what might happen if this familiar saying were true? Zeb wishes for many things: that it wasn’t so hot, that it wasn’t so dry, that he had a horse to help him carry a heavy sack of flour. Just as he wishes this last, a stranger rides by and tips his white Stetson hat; all of a sudden, Zeb has a horse! His mother doesn’t believe him, he wishes she might react differently, and a second horse appears in her kitchen. One look at Ma’s face sends boy and horse outside, where the palomino nearly tramples townswoman Mrs. Vander Snooty. Zeb promptly apologizes, but old habits die hard and he starts to say that he wished it hadn’t happened, only to find another horse appearing out of nowhere. Each horse causes more trouble; each time Zeb wishes it hadn’t, hilariously compounding his problems. After trying to wear out the wishing and ending up with a herd, he thinks of a solution: “I wish my wishes could just be wishes.” The horses disappear, and he’s happier for it. Sneed’s (Picture a Letter, p. 741, etc.) watercolor illustrations recall the early American west; exaggerated facial expressions and horses running amok perfectly convey the chaos. He has a knack for perspective; when the first horse appears and Zeb is “Eye to eye with a buckskin cow pony,” an enraptured Zeb’s face is shown up close, next to a large, brown, equine eye. This cautionary tale, humorously told and illustrated, gets its message across gently and without didacticism. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-13166-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002



Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018


The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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