Forced of animation and perfunctory of plot but well-enough stocked with interactive features and challenges.

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THE LITTLE WITCH AT SCHOOL

Slacker elf classmate in tow, a young student witch takes final exams in this involved set of number, memory and word games.

Receiving lengthy instructions from teacher Miss MacSpider as she goes, the little witch negotiates five tests with readers’ help. These include coloring in a paint-by-matching-numbers portrait and navigating a “concentration”-type maze through an ogre’s stomach. Witch and readers are also quizzed on general knowledge (“What animal roars?”) by a grumpy “genealomagic” tree. Ultimately, she passes by bringing her “cuddly toy” bat to life and then turns a rude classmate into a toad. An optional multivoice audio track in English or French is animated enough to compensate, mostly, for a text that only appears a few lines at a time and for the figures’ twitchy undulations, fixed expressions and unnatural gestures in the cartoon illustrations. Each screen features multiple pans and dissolves, plus any number of incidental tap-activated transformations or sound effects. The tests in the tale (and more in a separate “Surprise” section) are available at three selectable levels of difficulty (the question above is rated “Medium”).

Forced of animation and perfunctory of plot but well-enough stocked with interactive features and challenges. (iPad storybook app. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: SlimCricket

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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