PETE THE CAT: TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR

From the Pete the Cat series

The Pete the Cat cash machine grinds out another nursery-rhyme–based picture book (Old MacDonald Had a Farm, 2014).

Here, the heavy-lidded cat contemplates (kind of) a twinkling star. The book’s chief value is in reproducing all five stanzas of the traditional rhyme, presumably to give artist Dean enough material to fill another 32 pages. The aesthetics that have informed the franchise throughout are scrupulously maintained, resulting in the odd, if predictable, disconnect between the celebratory text and the couldn’t-care-less protagonist. The verse “How I wonder what you are!” is paired with an image of Pete letting his stoner stare rest on readers, ignoring the telescope that is trained on the twinkling star: He couldn’t look further from wonderment. In a delightful departure from his approach in Old MacDonald, Dean seems to be trying to impose a narrative in which Pete ends his day of play to go home, eat supper with his equally bored-looking family, bathe and go to bed. Unfortunately, inconsistency in the color of the sky—it’s often painted noonday blue and at the beginning discordantly shifts from dusky blue to sunset yellow—unmoors readers, and the illustrations often have nothing to do with the text. Pete is at his most appealing when asleep and dreaming of flying a spaceship to the star, one of the only moments in the book when text, tone and visuals truly align.

For fans only . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-230416-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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