Fans will want to emulate the style and voice of this funny homework saga. (Picture book. 5-8)



During the opening scene, in which Gus hands the teacher his report and a wrapped present, kindred spirits will suspect that there’s a story behind his extra-dazzling smile.

The protagonist lives on a farm with his parents, a younger brother, and 17 sheep. (Both humans and sheep are white.) His paper views the animals through his unique lens, starting with gender: “A girl sheep is a ewe. If you say, ‘Hey, Ewe,’ she won’t answer.” He describes trading his sibling for a lamb and trying to teach the flock how to skateboard. It is when he shepherds the lot into the house that chaos erupts. In combination with her preposterous situations, Birdsall’s deadpan narrative leaves plenty of room for Bliss to invent comedic scenes. Children will chuckle as the sheep wreak havoc: spaghetti-sauce tracks are traceable to the culprit sporting shades and underwear, a painting frames a bemused face, and sofa stuffing serves as dinner. The bucolic watercolor-and-ink compositions portray wooly creatures that are generally phlegmatic and brothers who enjoy comic books as much as they do their ovine companions. Text appears on old-school penmanship lines and in dialogue bubbles. To her credit (and despite losing a scarf to the cause), Ms. Smolinski seems to appreciate her student’s creativity and affection for his pets.

Fans will want to emulate the style and voice of this funny homework saga. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75570-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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