A wild ride with oddly assimilated educational substance.


From the Mighty Reader series

It’s the day of the state test, and the students need help from Mighty Reader to fight their fears, calm their nerves, and remember their skills.

Lulu, a young anthropomorphic dog, wakes up in bed, upset because she’s overslept on the day of the state test. She stumbles out the door to find the world transformed. Scary beings embodying her fears surround her: an oversized pencil, a fire-breathing book, a sinister eye that glares from a triangle atop a stack of different books. Lulu cowers by a fire hydrant, hoping to be rescued before the fears can take her brain away. Mighty Reader, a dog superhero, shows up just in time, with a special T-shirt and reading technique. The fears are tamed, and the day is saved. Now, in an abrupt turn of events, Lulu wakes up from this nightmare ready to face the real test. At school, the teacher has calming stations prepared, but the students need Mighty Reader to get ready for the test. With a combination of panels and full-page illustrations, and more speech bubbles than narrative text, this book reads like a comic and feels like one too, with its fast dramatic action. The didactic lesson about reading techniques (take turns reading, “talk the pictures,” etc.) is given a full spread before the students are shown quietly taking the test with smiles on their faces—a mixed message that gives the ending an odd feeling. Despite the chaotic structure and awkward ending, this book will likely help some students acknowledge anxiety about tests, a first step to conquering it.

A wild ride with oddly assimilated educational substance. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4499-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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