Flamboyantly fanciful and so much fun!


Matt Katz is the owner of Kat Hats Incorporated, a training facility where a cat can be “patiently taught to arrange itself on the head of a person as a living headpiece.”

When Thirdbeard’s elderly mother, Chickarina, goes missing on a snowy evening, he enlists the help of Matt Katz. Thirdbeard fears that his Mommy, who happens to be a nice, harmless witch, will suffer from brain freeze since she was last seen eating “an extra-large jumbo frozen fruitsicle, blueberry and avocado flavor,” and walking hatless up a steep mountain known as Witch's Spitz. Luckily, Matt's beloved and most successful kat hat, Thermal Herman 6⅞ths, has only just returned from a trip to Nepal. With one look from Matt, Thermal Herman 6⅞ths rushes out into the falling night. Aided by a madcap motorcyclist and a random moose who is “using his antlers as a hat rack” for some unspecified reason, the plucky cat saves Chickarina and brings her home, warmly hatted. This zany picture book is delightfully replete with straight-faced nonsense and atypical characters, many of whom have green skin and long, pointy noses. White, androgynous Matt wears colorful, mismatched socks and is husband to the always-fly, brown-skinned Glamorella, whose clothing and hairstyle change in every scene. Their son, Pocketmouse, is an aspiring magician who happens to use a wheelchair, and their daughter, Lambkin, wears a jester’s costume and is forever performing circus tricks. The bright and busy gouache illustrations are chock-full of offbeat, whimsical details that tell parallel stories of their own. (This review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

Flamboyantly fanciful and so much fun! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5194-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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