A charming tale of camaraderie and friendship.

SPOOKY AND THE GARGOYLE

A cat and a gargoyle guard their home and become pals in this illustrated children’s book.

A skittish white cat named Spooky roams the grounds of her new home. She is intrigued by Eben, the gargoyle hovering by the gates out front. But when she approaches the statue, Eben tells her to leave because he works best guarding the house alone. Still, Spooky continues to visit him. Although Eben mostly ignores her, the little cat feels secure next to him as it enables her to be “close enough to watch the outside world from the safety of the grounds.” After she is chased by a dog, Spooky is appreciative when Eben comes to her rescue. Though he brushes her off and claims he was just doing his job, Eben becomes less gruff over time. He even offers Spooky tips to boost her self-confidence (“The trick is to LOOK confident, even if you’re scared”). One day, a large dog tries to play with Eben, nearly knocking him over. Spooky scares the pooch away. Eben is relieved and thankful for his feline friend’s action. Although the gargoyle is shown as a stone statue in the pictures, he is depicted as a talking creature in Traver’s story. Still, the overall tale about two unlikely friends who help each other is effective, relatable, and will appeal to young readers. The striking images by debut illustrator Dahlenburg mostly mirror the text. They show the sweet-looking cat juxtaposed with darker scenery like shadowy hallways and elements such as brick, gates, and greenery.

A charming tale of camaraderie and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-56697-9

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Thousand Acre Woods Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 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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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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