This feline protagonist makes peace with the newcomer but may not prevail over more engaging cat tales.

CAT LADIES

A pampered pet initially resents the ways an interloper disrupts her routine.

The brisk, quirky, tongue-in-cheek text is told in the third person from Princess the cat’s point of view. It begins by introducing Princess’ “four ladies” and describing the various activities they share with her. Busy with personal grooming, running errands, bird-watching, and singing with the eponymous band, Princess is perfectly happy until a “stray” comes into their lives. She tries to maintain the status quo, but the newcomer seems to have taken her place. Feeling neglected, she slinks off to spend some time alone (and possibly sulk a bit). Comic touches include reversing stereotypical statements (“Some cats say [four ladies is] too many”), echoes of traditional tales (Princess’ search for a private spot leads to places that are “too high…too hard…and…too cramped”), and depicting the unwanted guest as a human child rather than another cat. Unfortunately, these light touches can’t entirely compensate for the somewhat predictable plot and Princess’ abrupt about-face. Schaefer’s illustrations are busy and energetic, with varying textures that give them a collaged feel. Retro shades of teal and mustard dominate, complementing the blocky shapes and geometric motifs. Princess’ simply drawn features effectively communicate a variety of emotions. Two of her ladies have light-brown skin, as does the young visitor, implying racial and/or ethnic diversity.

This feline protagonist makes peace with the newcomer but may not prevail over more engaging cat tales. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4082-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL

From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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