You better watch out for this excellent early reader.

JACK AND SANTA

From the Jack Book series , Vol. 7

Jack is back, and he’s on Santa’s “BAD list.”

Barnett and Pizzoli’s rascally rabbit Jack returns in a seventh title in their early-reader series. This time, readers discover that while the Lady and Rex the dog (with whom Jack lives) are on the nice list, Jack is on Santa’s naughty list. (In deference to emergent readers’ skills, the text labels these the “GOOD” and “BAD” lists.) There’s also another list in this story—Jack’s wish list, which spills over from one page onto the next two. “Oh boy. That’s a long list,” reads the wry text, which then goes on to speculate as to whether Jack will receive anything but coal. The story that ensues is well paced and accessible to new readers, its brief chapters cleverly interrogating the very premise that anyone might be wholly good or bad. Barnett’s textual restraint allows Pizzoli to ramp up the humor as pictures highlight just how bad Jack has been—and how good. The result is a humane and humorous secular Christmas story that offers the gift of supporting readers’ burgeoning decoding abilities with a well-developed, comical story. Both the Lady and Santa present White. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-13-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

You better watch out for this excellent early reader. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11398-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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