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WILLY'S WORLD OF WONDERS

An adventurous exploration into the deepest recesses of imagination.

Tiny visits to wonderful locations.

Avian weddings, Jurassic comparisons, and minuscule whispers populate this book as Austrian artist Puchner invites readers to embark on an imaginative adventure. Bizarrely peculiar and wonderful, the surrealist journey keeps them tethered to reality as it incorporates sly references to popular culture, such as Salvador Dalí and Star Trek. The narrator often directly addresses the audience, using the second person. Prompting philosophical thoughts about paradise or praising readers’ existence, the narrative invites constant thought and examination between reality and dreams. With active ambiguity, the narrator seems to morph through the different creatures portrayed as the perspective switches from a cat receiving presents to a rabbit perusing photographs, for instance. With no clear narrative or story progression, the book requires diligence to persevere in its reading. Offering a smorgasbord of creatures and locations, Puchner plunges readers into the depths of the ocean and elevates them to the highest reaches of the cosmos from one page to the next. It’s dizzying. However, the sequence of spreads invites patient reading as it displays a visually enticing set of illustrations and begs for the deciphering of meaning.

An adventurous exploration into the deepest recesses of imagination. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4383-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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