A heartfelt, timely allegory celebrating diversity, bravery, and solidarity.


This epic tale of escape and liberation, set in a clandestine underground lab producing genetically engineered Perfect Pets, stars courageous Barnabus, half mouse, half elephant.

Along with a collection of creatures, Barnabus is a Failed Project, dubiously destined, according to cockroach pal Pip, to be “recycled.” Barnabus and his roommates—Light-Up Lois, Mushroom Sloth, and others—spend banal days imprisoned in bell jars, fed, poked and prodded by the Green Rubber Suits. With their fates sealed, Barnabus avows, “We need to escape!” Discovering that his elephantine trumpeting can break glass, Barnabus frees the others. The brave misfits, pursued by their creators and captors, escape through venting, emerging into another lab. The band works together to free a fellow captive, an enormous, cyclopian marine creature, releasing a flood of tank water that sweeps them out of the building’s depths and into the pet shop above the lab. The escaped company, discovering the wide world foretold by Pip, finds a lake, sunshine, grass, and trees: “a place that might be home.” The Fan brothers (Eric and Terry, joined for this project by Devin) generate copious precisely rendered, action-packed illustrations that capture the lab’s sinister labyrinth, the poignant features of the “failed” creatures, and moonlit cityscapes whose skyscraper “mountains” reach “all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars.”

A heartfelt, timely allegory celebrating diversity, bravery, and solidarity. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6326-0

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Hee haw.

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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


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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