Though there’s a plethora of choices in the rodent canon, this shines bright.

THE GREAT ART CAPER

From the Pets on the Loose! series , Vol. 2

Cuddly classroom pets must stop a group of rapacious rodents from ruining the elementary art show in this sequel to The Great Pet Escape (2016).

In the second-grade classroom of Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary lives George Washington, a lovably plump tawny-and-white hamster. GW spends his days palling around with the other class pets, Sunflower the guinea pig and Barry the bunny, and also with his best friend, a pigtailed, white-skinned second-grader named Carina. When Carina’s picture is chosen for the art show as the only second-grade submission, GW is thrilled. But the mischievous mouse Harriet and her murine minions have other plans for the art show, plotting to steal Carina’s picture and having GW’s gang sent away to St. Bart’s Obedience School for Unruly Pets. Can GW and his friends work together to outsmart Harriet before she wrecks the show? This gentle graphic adventure’s warm and inviting illustrations portray snuggleworthy characters resembling stuffed toys brought to life. The animated and adorable menagerie displays a pleasing blend of silliness and good-natured naughtiness, imparting a kind message of friendship without a hint of saccharinity. A sweet surprise ending with equal emphasis on humans and animals sets this apart from many critter tales.

Though there’s a plethora of choices in the rodent canon, this shines bright. (Graphic fantasy. 5-9)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-118-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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DOG MAN

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 1

What do you get from sewing the head of a smart dog onto the body of a tough police officer? A new superhero from the incorrigible creator of Captain Underpants.

Finding a stack of old Dog Man comics that got them in trouble back in first grade, George and Harold decide to craft a set of new(ish) adventures with (more or less) improved art and spelling. These begin with an origin tale (“A Hero Is Unleashed”), go on to a fiendish attempt to replace the chief of police with a “Robo Chief” and then a temporarily successful scheme to make everyone stupid by erasing all the words from every book (“Book ’Em, Dog Man”), and finish off with a sort of attempted alien invasion evocatively titled “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” In each, Dog Man squares off against baddies (including superinventor/archnemesis Petey the cat) and saves the day with a clever notion. With occasional pauses for Flip-O-Rama featurettes, the tales are all framed in brightly colored sequential panels with hand-lettered dialogue (“How do you feel, old friend?” “Ruff!”) and narrative. The figures are studiously diverse, with police officers of both genders on view and George, the chief, and several other members of the supporting cast colored in various shades of brown. Pilkey closes as customary with drawing exercises, plus a promise that the canine crusader will be further unleashed in a sequel.

What a wag. (Graphic fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-58160-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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