INTERRUPTING CHICKEN AND THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE

A laugh-out-loud follow-up to Stein’s 2011 Caldecott honoree, Interrupting Chicken.

Little Chicken is back, and her metafictive editorial impulses are as strong as ever. After school, she tells Papa, “my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise.” Papa corrects her, replying, “She was talking about an element of surprise,” but Chicken is unconvinced and is determined to find surprising elephants in the stories she reads for homework with Papa. And find them she does in the books-within-the-book: The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid. As in Interrupting Chicken, Stein changes styles to illustrate Chicken’s books and then visually interrupts those scenes—this time not just with Chicken jumping into the books, but with her imagined elephant of surprise, too. He ratchets up the humor by depicting the small, blue, adorable elephant in costume for each story—feathered like a swan, wearing long braids and a dirndl, and finally in a grass skirt and coconut bra. More indulgent than exasperated, Papa determines to tell Chicken a story without elephants, and she illustrates it. She, of course, also interrupts it with an elephant of surprise. While the interrupting conceit is a bit less straightforward in this book than its predecessor, fans of the two loving characters will be delighted to see them again.

Unsurprisingly good. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8842-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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