Pity poor Charlie when he has to buy eight wedding rings.

SHARK KISS, OCTOPUS HUG

Two sea creatures who do not really leap to mind as cuddly-wuddlies are starved for a little smooch and a little squeeze from the denizens of the beach.

Charlie the shark and Olivia Octopus—who could have come straight from Hanna-Barbera/Nickelodeon central casting—have yearnings. Charlie wants a kiss, and Olivia wants a hug, so they study beachgoers in order to devise stratagems. Elementary, my dear Ahab. Just set up a kissing booth, or put on a play, or offer free rides, or throw a cookout, complete with “delicious algae soufflé.” Kisses and hugs always follow a good time, don’t they? The kids are a tad wary, though, and the parents are near hysterical. When their best designs are met with screams of horror, Charlie begins to shed a tear. Olivia moves to comfort him. A hug. A gentlemanly kiss in return. Not bad, not bad at all. Who needs those pasty landlubbers? Affection can come from the oddest and often most overlooked places. Let us just hope that Charlie never activates his urge to swallow Olivia whole when a kiss was all that was intended. Brain chemistry...what a mess it can make of things. But not here. Cornell milks the premise for all it’s worth, throwing verisimilitude to the winds; a puckered-up Olivia, eyes closed, should have readers in hysterics.

Pity poor Charlie when he has to buy eight wedding rings. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220320-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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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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