BUGTOWN BOOGIE

A boy walking home at dusk narrates his fantastic woodland discovery: a diminutive but raucous party in a tree trunk. The revelers? Bugs of every description, many playing tiny guitars, fiddles and drums. Hanson’s syncopated verse scans handily, making this a swell read-aloud for intrepid parents, teachers and librarians. “Every kind of bug was there, a-rockin’ to the rhythm. / The Katydids had come and brought the Katykids in with ‘em. / The Mayfly was a waltzin’ with her little Junebug brother, / As the Caterpillars did the twist, ticklin’ each other!” The accomplished Johnson and Fancher take the fantasy several twists further, with mixed-media pictures teeming with strange critters that only occasionally correspond with entomological reality. The illustrations couple painterly techniques with textural, post-industrial collage elements, resulting in full-bleed spreads that are often amusing and occasionally creepy. In the illustration accompanying the quoted text, for example, two bloated, enmeshed caterpillars freakishly dominate the picture plane. Still, Hanson’s cheerful cadences and imaginatively embellished refrains carry the day, and Fancher’s typography is handsome and effective. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-059937-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Laura Geringer/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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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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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

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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