An artful curiosity and perhaps a challenge for writing units, but not a great picture book.


In a narrative told with just 12 rhyming words and dePaola’s bright collages, a fledgling takes its first flight.

“Wings!” the text proclaims as the chubby pink bird stretches its pinions. But: “Clings,” it continues as the little bird looks down, claws gripping the nest. The bird “flings” itself out, then tumbles and falls into a puddle (“stings”), “wrings” itself dry, inspects its bruises (or “dings”), gazes at some “things” (a snail and some worms), one of which it resolves to “bring” back to the nest. It “springs” back into the air, “sings” in triumph, flies in “rings” through the air, and “zings” with its nest mates up to two parent birds. While it’s a complete arc, the book feels more like a stunt than a story. Limiting the text to one-syllable “ing” words results in the not-really-apropos “stings” when the bird crash-lands, the at-first-inscrutable “dings” (children and adults alike will wonder where the dinging sound is coming from before the adult readers recall its alternate meaning), and the flabby “things.” DePaola’s illustrations too often fail to pick up the slack: The bird shakes the water off rather than “wring[ing]” itself dry; depicting the singular conjugation “sings” are the three nest mates with beaks open and the protagonist, its beak clamped shut on a worm—just who is singing?

An artful curiosity and perhaps a challenge for writing units, but not a great picture book. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0510-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among


Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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