Entertaining holiday fare that pays homage to spending time with someone special.


Porcupine is a stickler for romance.

On Valentine’s Day, well-meaning Porcupine pokes various animal pals with quills, à la mythic Cupid striking the lovelorn with arrows. Unsurprisingly, his efforts at “fanning the flames of love” arouse angry, pained yelps. A bear huffily scolds Porcupine, giving him an idea: He secretly scrawls and posts a sign announcing a meeting in the forest, at which his pals gather to voice their disgruntlement. Porcupine, perched on a tree limb and dangling paper hearts above the assemblage, observes covertly and listens in on the proceedings with delight. He notes that he’s successfully stage-managed the perfect Valentine’s Day scene: The complainers all pair off in sympathy with each other, walk away happily, then engage in enjoyable activities together. However, this wouldn’t be an entirely happy Valentine’s Day story if the protagonist didn’t find a love connection of his own—cue the sweet twist at the end. This endearing, albeit predictable, holiday tale blends simple, expressive humor with warmth and sweetness. Young readers will giggle at the gentle figurative as well as metaphoric jabs that love, according to Porcupine, may entail. Colorful line illustrations capably evoke the setting as well as characters’ lively personalities. Porcupine and companion sport eyeglasses while some characters wear apparel; a bear carries a cane. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50.4% of actual size.)

Entertaining holiday fare that pays homage to spending time with someone special. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8101-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...


A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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