Clever, funny, and true—really.

SORRY (REALLY SORRY)

A chain reaction of spiteful words and actions ricochets across a farmyard until an act of kindness turns things around.

It all starts with Cow. Cross because she’s hoof deep in mud, the usually placid Holstein flicks mud onto Duck. Cranky because of Cow’s actions and unwillingness to apologize, Duck insults her friend Frog and proffers only an insincere apology. Frog criticizes Bird and refuses to feel remorse. Bird chases Goat from a space they normally share, then Goat butts Pig. Tenderhearted Pig, in turn, cries her eyes out. When Dog comes along to find out what’s the matter, Pig passes on the pique, but Dog refuses to bite. He patiently waits through Pig’s emotional storm, then reminds her of their long-standing friendship. Dog’s compassion prompts a sincere apology, which then boomerangs back through the other animals. The entertaining text moves briskly, filled with interactions that will be amusingly familiar to both readers and listeners. Although they possess the power of speech, the animals are portrayed relatively realistically in Bliss’ expressive ink-and-watercolor cartoons. The farm setting includes enough detail to ground the story without distraction from the action while the simply drawn faces, particularly the animals’ eyes, convey an impressive range of emotions. An exploration of the repercussions of a bad mood could have turned into a pedantic moral tale, but Cotler and Bliss’ light touch and humorous approach offer insight without judgment.

Clever, funny, and true—really. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984-81247-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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