A book to teach kindergartners not to swindle home-building contractors, in case they need that.


A greedy pig gets a big comeuppance after shortchanging artisans building his new home.

After coming into a fortune, Pig makes plans for a home that befits his new wealth. He enlists a cat, a dog, and a hen to do the work, enthusiastically promising four gold coins for the build-out. Pig’s modest brick home (echoing, of course, “The Three Little Pigs”) is not enough; he demands more and more until the hardworking animals have built a huge mansion. When Pig is finally happy, he gives them four gold coins to share, not four coins each, throwing in another two as a bonus. The unhappy crew returns at night to take half of the home, literally (“Fair is fair,” is an ongoing refrain), leaving the structure to wobble and fall on Pig, all 7,000 bricks of it. Most surprising: The collapse kills Pig. The End. The notion that Pig dies over a business deal might raise lots of questions, and the abrupt finale offers no comfort or information on what happens to the aggrieved but murderous builders. The consequences of bad business are pretty serious despite the bright color palette and cute character designs. Perhaps it’s a good lesson to teach early, but Cotton, author of the exquisitely stark The Road Home, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (2016), does it without the finesse of her previous work. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A book to teach kindergartners not to swindle home-building contractors, in case they need that. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72841-578-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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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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