Give grumpy Gus and his positive puppy pal another sausage and invite them back for a sequel.

THIS IS GUS

A grumpy basset hound is unhappy with his life until a puppy arrives to cheer him up.

Gus has grouch written all over him. His brow is furrowed, his eyes are glowering, and his posture is stiff and unyielding. He “doesn’t like much of anything,” including walks, sticks, balls, and making friends. He doesn’t even enjoy his own birthday party. Midway through this litany of woes, a perky basset pup shows up as one of the birthday presents. The unnamed puppy is revealed as the first-person narrator of the story, changing the negative focus to a positive one. The appealing pup declares that Gus now likes activities such as bathtime and hide-and-seek, though the looks on Gus’ face don’t match that narrative. The surprising climax involves a huge bowl of sausages, with the gradually thawing Gus saving just one sausage for the hopeful young dog. Comical illustrations use bold shapes and bright colors against uncluttered backgrounds, and sausages decorate the endpapers in an amusing touch. The simple story has a droll, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that will be understood by preschoolers and appreciated by older children as well. This funny tale has wide appeal, from younger children just learning to listen to a real story to beginning readers who can decode the easy, repetitive text.

Give grumpy Gus and his positive puppy pal another sausage and invite them back for a sequel. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09736-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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