Wordless, with masterful artwork and an intriguing narrative undertow, this whale’s tale will transfix.

THE WHALE

Two tenacious preteens (one lanky, long-haired, and light-skinned, the other bespectacled, short-haired, and slightly darker-skinned) strive to get to the briny bottom of a 50-year-old local legend and prove the Great Spotted Whale swims in their town’s harbor.

Working separately, one rigging sound equipment and another mounting video cameras, the two steer dinghies into open water—and into each other! The collision damages both boats, sets tempers ablaze, but forces the industrious, determined duo to join forces on their whale hunt. A newspaper spread in the first pages provides readers with the back story; a bold headline reads, “GIANT WHALE OR GIANT HOAX?” The articles beneath (partially obscured) describe events half a century earlier, piquing readers’ interests and vaulting them into the children’s ardent endeavors. Photorealistic graphite drawings stretch across pages, bringing sea spray, wires, lenses, wooden planks, waves, ropes, and frayed fabric into penetrating focus. These extraordinary black-and-white illustrations, etched with details, crosshatches, shadows, and shading, charge the children’s expedition with a pulsing, breathless urgency. Their preternatural technical proficiencies and passion-fueled mission emerge somehow as entirely believable. More astounding is the artist’s uncanny ability to reproduce the murky transparency of rippling ocean water, a whale submerged silently just beneath.

Wordless, with masterful artwork and an intriguing narrative undertow, this whale’s tale will transfix. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7965-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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Dizzyingly silly.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS AND THE TYRANNICAL RETALIATION OF THE TURBO TOILET 2000

From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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