Spidery good fun with a can-do message.

JUST ITZY

This book that combines nursery rhymes and folk songs about spiders with a first-day-of-school story about not giving up offers a little something for everyone.

Itzy Bitzy is not fond of his nickname. In fact, he is looking forward to his first day of spindergarten just so he can reinvent himself. But his big brother, Gutzy, isn’t helping. “Only spiderlings bring lunch boxes.” Determined to not be Itzy Bitzy anymore, Itzy purposefully “forgets” his lunch and his raincoat. But his lunch-catching web-spinning does not go well. A girl on a tuffet scares away the first fly he spies, an old woman swallows the second (along with Itzy!), and Itzy’s interrupted while making his third web by a cry for help from the waterspout. Proving his web-making prowess in more than one way, Itzy saves the day and has lunch to boot, and in the end, he doesn’t feel “one bit bitsy.” Pizzoli’s spiders manage to convey emotion through body posture, dot eyes and line mouths. The pencil, India ink, Plaka paint and Photoshop illustrations feature cartoon details against pastel, retro-type backgrounds. While appealing, they don’t quite match the tone of the text, and it can take some close looking to make out some of the details. Readers familiar with the allusions likely won’t care, though, as it’s so much fun to see old favorites in new tales.

Spidery good fun with a can-do message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5811-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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