Likely to find mass appeal but should be considered with scrutiny. (Picture book. 4-8)

GRUMPY MONKEY PARTY TIME!

Jim Panzee—the primate protagonist of Grumpy Monkey (2019) fame—is having a fine day until he receives an invitation to a party; the comic anxiety commences.

The source of Jim’s nerves is the idea of dancing. Jim Panzee, as it turns out, doesn’t know how to dance. This information shocks his jungle friends, who each give him pointers on how to bust a move on the dance floor. Jim tries to go along with his friends but discovers he’s not having a good time, not because he can’t dance, but because he actually doesn’t like dancing. Speaking out about his preferences inspires other animals to voice that they aren’t fans of the pastime either. They discover there are many other fun things to do at a party, like enjoy refreshments and play games, and still have a great time. Like its precursor, this title emphasizes self-acceptance and authenticity. It effectively communicates through the fanciful illustrations the feelings of facing pressure to conform to others’ expectations and the relief of honesty. Whatever gains this title develops in terms of social-emotional learning concepts, however, are offset by the insensitive use of a monkey protagonist, particularly linked to the racialized skill of dancing. It’s a shame that a series so imbued with emotional intelligence does not demonstrate more awareness of historical use of simian imagery as a derogatory referent to black people.

Likely to find mass appeal but should be considered with scrutiny. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-11862-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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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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