Particularly good for kids not ready to move beyond nonthreatening shark stories.



From the Flip & Fin series

These twin sand sharks just love a good joke. 

Flip and Fin are on their way to school when Flip tries out a joke on his brother: “What did the sawfish see?…He saw fish!” Ouch. Fin tells his twin that with Joke Day coming up at school, Flip is going to need a lot of practice to measure up. At school, while Fin builds a sandcastle with Swimmy the jellyfish, Flip tries out a joke on Molly the anglerfish. He forgets the punch line. When Flip and Fin play superheroes, though, Flip’s jokes improve—must be the cape. He keeps practicing. When Joke Day arrives, the big kids tell great jokes…but even with his cape on, Flip gets stage fright until Fin helps out from the audience. Then all the sea creatures have a joke-a-thon. Gill’s tale of finny, fraternal support is a fine fable. Everything works out, and some of the jokes are actually funny (though the audience at Joke Day laughs hysterically at the banana/orange knock-knock joke without the necessary setup). Numberman’s watercolor illustrations are inviting, expressive and silly in their cartoon, saucer-eyed exaggeration. The fishy facts at the close are a plus.

Particularly good for kids not ready to move beyond nonthreatening shark stories. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-224300-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character


From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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