A book that forgoes the basics of comprehension in pursuit of purposeful misdirection.


A tale of foxes and rabbit goes for a twist ending.

Farmer foxes Rusty and Rojo believe the time has come to attend to their “prizewinning… / RABBIT STEW!” They pluck delicious vegetables from the ground and off the vines, scrounge for fruits in the bushes, and all the while are viewed apprehensively by the local rabbit family. After all the ingredients are picked, it’s time for the pièce de résistance, a “round…white… / bowl… / for our favorite Rabbit, Stew.” It turns out that Stew is the name of the foxes’ prizewinning rabbit, so he and his family are treated to a feast of healthy treats. It’s a cute-enough idea, but the payoff loses much in the delivery. Is the book implying that the foxes own the rabbits and win prizes at rabbit shows with them? If so, why do the bunnies look terrified out of their gourds for 95 percent of the book? The confusing storytelling is rivaled only by the art. Readers see that the rabbits have a home directly next to (and beneath) the foxes, yet they appear fearful of their neighbors from Page 5 onward. And little wonder! Rusty handles a tomato and calls it “plump, yet firm,” while Rojo hugs a rabbit and says, “Perfectly so.” No doubt readers will wonder why the scared bunnies don’t hop along to greener, less saliva-spackled pastures.

A book that forgoes the basics of comprehension in pursuit of purposeful misdirection. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62979-583-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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  • Caldecott Honor Book


Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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