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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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