HANSEL AND GRETEL

Not unlike creepy-eyed dolls that never seem quite as cute as they're meant to be, there's something a little off about this adaptation of the Brothers Grimm tale. All the elements are there: the wayward kids, the mean stepmother, the breadcrumbs left behind in the woods, the witch and her candy-laden house. But the illustrations and animation seem too clean and happy for a story that ends with a woman burning to death in her own home. In fact, the grinning faces of Hansel and Gretel, toting bags of treasure on their backs as they walk away from the burning house is enough to give any parent pause before choosing this app for a bedtime story. Not that the app's eerily cheery approach is the only problem. The sound mix is uneven, with music overpowering the narration. The sound effects are generic (at least one of the character's audio cues is identical to those featured in another app by the same developer). And the on-screen text is too small; on one page it doesn't fit on the screen, requiring readers scroll to catch the last line. Readers can also reposition characters and objects on the screen, moving them from place to place by dragging them with a finger, but it's a feature that seems to exist just ’cause, not to add any value to the story. If this app got lost in the woods like Hansel and Gretel, it isn't likely it would be missed. Quick, somebody scoop up those breadcrumbs. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2010

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Yasmin Studios

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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

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CREEPY CARROTS!

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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