A charming, sensible tale for audiences young and old.

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QUEEN PANDA CAN'T SLEEP

Queen Panda has been awake for days, and her exhausted subjects are desperate to find a way to make their grouchy monarch fall asleep.

Since she is unable to fall asleep, Queen Panda insists that her servants stay awake as well: The tailors sew by moonlight, the cook prepares rice cakes 24/7, and the butler keeps cleaning all night long. Exhausted, the royal adviser pens a decree, promising “a bag of Chinese pearls” to whomever can lull the queen into slumber. Visitors arrive from around the world, and each of them tries a different trick: A Mongolian shepherd suggests that the queen count his sheep, a Bengali storyteller tells her “the world’s most boring story,” a Parisian diva sings her a lullaby…but nothing seems to work. Will the queen ever fall asleep? The tone of Isern’s narrative is reminiscent of a folktale, especially the value-based ending (after a day of honest work, the queen falls asleep easily). Ruiz Johnson’s rich illustrations are populated with anthropomorphic animals and display a Chinese influence, particularly in the clothes the characters wear, Queen Panda’s palace, and depictions of flowers and the bamboo in the background. Text and illustrations work together seamlessly, resulting in subtle humor and wordplay that do not escape readers—the Mongolian shepherd, for instance, is a wolf, and the Bengali storyteller is a tiger.

A charming, sensible tale for audiences young and old. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63592-095-6

Page Count: 36

Publisher: StarBerry Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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