Rollicking counting fun takes place in a swamp like no other. When a little girl decides to go polling in the swamp, she has no idea of the passengers she will soon acquire . . . all of them uninvited and unwelcome. But as the guests figure, “If you got room for one, you got room for two.” So possum, skunk, frog, muskrat, heron, coon, beaver, and otter all join the boat, which soon has not a spare inch of room left. But no counting book stops at just nine, and this one is no exception. Suddenly a looming gator makes ten—all double-paged spread of him, getting bigger and bigger, “a smilin’ / a slinkin’ / a-blinky-blanky-winkin’.” But where will he fit? No problem. The boat may not have room for gator, but gator certainly has room for all of its annoying passengers. In the twisted ending, the little girl is at last free to continue her journey. Alone. Booth’s uproarious watercolors leave just enough of a suggestion that the animals escaped being lunch to make the ending humorous and there hasn’t been a gator like this one in a long time. Fleming’s (A Big Cheese for the White House, 1999, etc.) sense of rhythm and rhyme make this a great read-aloud and the combination of author and illustrator count up to big fun. Pair this with Nancy Van Laan’s Possum Come a-Knockin’ (1990) and April Wayland’s It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandma (1995) for an all-Booth extravaganza. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83153-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Anne Schwartz/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.


If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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