Of more lasting interest to scholars than children, this genial pet-shop visit provides a tantalizing glimpse into a...

WHAT PET SHOULD I GET?

Almost 25 years after the death of the great Dr. Seuss, a new book hits the market.

“We want a pet. / We want a pet. / What kind of pet / should we get?” So begins the narrator and his sister’s visit to a pet store, where they find themselves torn among a bevy of cute, furry creatures including cats, dogs, rabbits, and fish, as well as some “new things.” As presented in the lengthy publisher’s note that follows the story, this newly unearthed picture book likely dates to the late 1950s or early ’60s and has been reconstructed from finished art and multiple iterations of draft revisions. The result is a far more satisfying experience than such other posthumous Seuss publications as Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories (2014) and The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories (2011), which paired more or less finished stories with a few pieces of art. This new-old book presents a complete storyline with a pleasing balance of text and art featuring, on average, one quatrain per page. Unfortunately, it still has a fairly unfinished feel. It’s hard to imagine that the notoriously finicky—admirably so—author would have been entirely happy with the occasionally lackluster and stumbling verse. Moreover, while the illustrations demonstrate an intensifying looniness, progressing from cats and dogs to Seuss’ trademark, unidentifiable rubber-limbed, mop-topped creatures, the text does not keep pace. The “yent” and the “fast kind of thing / who would fly round my head / in a ring on a string” the brother considers feel like first steps toward zaniness rather than a finished artistic vision. The concluding note likewise suffers from a lack of unity, offering an earnest exhortation to eschew pet shops for shelter adoption, a survey of the dogs in Theodor Geisel’s life, and the process art director Cathy Goldsmith followed in turning the newfound manuscript into a book.

Of more lasting interest to scholars than children, this genial pet-shop visit provides a tantalizing glimpse into a master’s artistic process. (Picture book. 3 & up)

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-52426-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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