THE PERFECT FRIEND

Archie the dog longs for a friend to play with, a real friend who would play ball, not like the goldfish, turtle or rabbit his parents got him. So when his human family leaves one morning promising a surprise when they return, he’s hopeful, but the wriggling, snuffling bundle in a cradle is not the surprise he wanted. When baby Max gets all the attention, Archie misbehaves, peeing in a shoe and climbing high for a snack. As Max gets bigger, Archie feels smaller and smaller. When his family finally notices, Grandma plays the piano for him, Grandpa teaches him chess, father takes him bicycling and mother performs a puppet show. But there’s still one thing missing—a friend, until Max becomes the perfect one. This husband-wife collaboration is cleverly appealing; Kulikov’s capricious illustrations accentuate the humor with offbeat details and perspectives (through a fish bowl; underneath the table legs). The charm is in the child-like behavior of dog Archie; adults will grin at the wry twist on “dog is man’s best friend,” and kids will love Archie in his flower-print shorts and expressive, big floppy ears. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-35821-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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Hee haw.

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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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Well-nigh Wondrous.

IT FELL FROM THE SKY

When a strange orb falls into their habitat, the Spider commandeers it, constructing “WonderVille” and selling tickets to long lines of curious insects.

The object (readers will recognize it as a yellow-green marble) invites considerable speculation. Is it a gumdrop, a comet, a chrysalis? The Spider, nixing the chatter, asserts that “whatever it is, it most certainly belongs to me,” insisting that the sphere has fallen into his web. He constructs a “Grand Exhibit” to showcase “the Wonder from the Sky.” As lines of visitors lengthen, admission increases from one leaf to two—then more—until visitors cease. The Spider presumes they’ve gone to invite prospective customers. That self-aggrandizing assumption is rendered moot by “the Unexpected Disaster. / A five-legged creature stole the Wonder and took it back to the sky.” (This deus ex machina is a child’s hand.) Time passes, WonderVille reverts to its previous state, and insects return. The Spider, ignored, experiences a nighttime epiphany as stars shine down. “They didn’t hide their light from anyone. Not even a selfish Spider.” Patiently, he spins webs, and “sure enough, more Wonders fell from the sky.” In graphite-gray spreads rife with delicate flora, colorful new “Wonders” (a thimble, pushpin, Lego, and more) captivate the neighborhood—free of charge. The Fans’ marvelous illustrations sparkle with nuance, from lofting dandelion seeds to the Spider’s dew-dropped web. The pro-community message is slightly undermined by the choice to portray a gendered, top-hatted, preponderantly male cast. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Well-nigh Wondrous. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5762-1

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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