Freeze-dried awful on a stick



Obnoxious and tone-deaf, this mess of an app will leave readers cold. 

An off-putting adaptation of a Russian fairy tale, this dismal story of an abused daughter, a weak-willed father and, of course, an evil stepmother, is ugly in nearly every way imaginable. When the stepmother demands that the father abandon his daughter, leaving her out in the cold to die, the family celebrates with a pancake dinner, and the stepmother beats the family dog. As if the generic, cheery-cartoon artwork and non-sequitur, sexist text weren’t bad enough (“A thunderstorm will pass, but a grumpy woman will torment you until she gets what she wants”), any hope of a somber tone is shattered by dozens of cutesy, anachronistic animations. The girl is eventually saved by a gift-bearing Father Frost. Very little about this tale makes sense; flaws in the adaptation and translation are compounded by illustrations that rarely match up with the text, which presents itself, one letter at a time, with maddening slowness. The writing is clunky, frequently missing punctuation, and the sound effects will give any parent reading along a deep migraine. The app’s greatest sin, however, is in turning every page, including the ones featuring child abandonment, into an extended seek-and-poke game, unlocking sometimes–glitch-y additional games that likewise do nothing to extend the story.

Freeze-dried awful on a stick . (iPad storybook app. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2014


Page Count: -

Publisher: Vadim M

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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