An entertaining effort with a disappointing denouement.

PRINCE RIBBIT

Three pink-cheeked, white princesses meet a conniving frog in this amusing metafictional parody of “The Frog Prince.”

The two older sisters are elegant young ladies in jewels and brocade gowns who sit in the palace garden reading fairy tales. They sit quietly and read “The Frog Prince,” while their much younger sister, Princess Martha, prefers learning facts and studying real frogs. A clever frog introduces himself as the ensorcelled Prince Ribbit and convinces the older sisters to take him indoors for a pampered life. Spunky Princess Martha, with red, curly hair and glasses, sees through the frog’s ruse. Her sisters offer fairy tales to prove their point, while Martha counters with informational texts, triggering the story’s refrain: “Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true.” The older sisters kiss the frog to try to break the spell and turn him into a handsome prince and future husband, but Martha tries to befriend the frog, sealing the deal with a gentle kiss. In a surprising twist ending, the frog turns into a dark-haired, pale-skinned prince who is “SO handsome that Martha decided she DID want to marry him after all.” The final page, however, shows Martha laughing with the real frog, along with the story’s thematic advice not to believe everything, as “just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true.” Despite the tongue-in-cheek ambiguity of the ending, the story seems to reinforce the notion that partners should be chosen based on appearances. In addition, Princess Martha appears far too young to be contemplating marriage, so the moment when readers think she is may unsettle them. A huge trim size and digitally produced illustrations in bright, jewel tones add appeal.

An entertaining effort with a disappointing denouement. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56145-761-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

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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