The initial rural setting and avian protagonist may be unfamiliar to some readers, but the author/artist’s admiration for...

FALCON

Gorgeous artwork and an unusual subject will likely boost the appeal of this (literal and figurative) flight of fancy.

After starting with a single-page, sun-warmed portrait of a Tucson young boy, Jessell’s realistic paintings stretch across a series of two-page spreads to offer stunning vistas. Speaking in the first person, the boy describes how he would fly, what he might see and how other animals would respond, “If I were a falcon…” Close-ups show the falcon’s sharp gaze, strong wings and fierce beak, all attributes alluded to in the brief, lyrical text. Shifts in perspective provide visual interest and amplify the impact of the prose, as when a blue jay and starling, viewed from below, peer warily up at the falcon flying high overhead. Cliffs, mountains, ocean waves and city skyscrapers loom large, and for the most part realism prevails, though there is just a touch of anthropomorphism (and humor) when the falcon dive-bombs startled pedestrians. The story then comes full circle, back to the boy, this time depicted running across the field, mimicking the falcon’s flight and wishing “Oh, if only I were a falcon…”

The initial rural setting and avian protagonist may be unfamiliar to some readers, but the author/artist’s admiration for the beauty of the natural world and the fascination of imagining another life shine through clearly. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86866-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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