The monkeys may be playful, but this title isn’t as much fun for new readers as it should be.

MONKEY PLAY

No matter how playful they are, the frolicking monkeys in Capucilli and Pang’s collaboration fail to make this beginning reader a success.

Although the text employs good controls around vocabulary, its central problem is that it lacks sufficient rhythmic discipline. This is immediately apparent with the opening lines, which read, “Way up high, / in a big palm tree, / sits one little monkey”; subsequent lines do not ameliorate the flawed cadence. Cartoonish, digitally rendered illustrations depict monkeys cavorting among South Asian musicians, merchants, spice jars and then a bevy of animals from the “royal zoo.” Although it’s refreshing to see references to the South Asian setting in text and illustrations, ultimately there is little story apparent to engage readers in the monkeys’ play. This is a fatal flaw. Emergent readers may be able to decode the text, but it gives them too little motivation to want to read or reread it.

The monkeys may be playful, but this title isn’t as much fun for new readers as it should be. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86993-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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