Trying hard does not equal funny (or groovy)

DANCE PARTY COUNTDOWN

From the Groovy Joe series , Vol. 2

Groovy Joe the hip hound dog is back for a sequel, following up on his first musical adventure, Ice Cream and Dinosaurs (2016).

This time Joe and his squirrel sidekick are hosting a disco dance party, with more and more dogs knocking at their door and joining the jam session with their own instruments. The canine entrances seem to be set up as knock-knock jokes, but there are no subsequent punch lines (or the anticipated humor of a funny answer). Each additional grouping of dogs is summarized as a number sentence that is reinforced in the text, with large, hand-lettered type repeating “Disco Party Bow-Wow!” as a refrain. The conclusion offers an invitation to readers to join the party, as there’s always room for more guests. Bold illustrations show the canines cavorting at the party, playing various instruments, and the groups of animals can be counted to match the number sentences that serve as the obvious teaching point of the story (there is no actual plot). The dogs all appear to be male, except (probably) for a pink poodle with a green bow who plays the violin. A musical version of the story can be downloaded at the publisher’s website, and the story might be fun when sung and acted out. Sticklers may object to ungrammatical constructions in the text that reflect the casual nature of the writing style: “Two dogs in the room means less space for Joe”; “Joe invited who?”

Trying hard does not equal funny (or groovy) . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88379-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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

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KNIGHT OWL

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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