Bank on fun with this one—it’ll rope readers in.


From the Jack Book series , Vol. 4

That bad bunny Jack is back—and he’s gone out West!

Jack and the Lady arrive at the dude ranch for a three-day stay. Slim, the gold-toothed ranch hand, immediately takes a liking to the Lady. He calls her “ma’am” and kisses her hand, which makes Jack mad. That night, a bell sounds the alarm at the bank next to the ranch. The Lady goes to investigate only to find that Slim thwarted the theft but was unable to capture the bandit. A wanted poster reveals the bandit’s long ears and scowling eyes. Could it really be Jack? Barnett and Pizzoli are in apple-pie order in this Western for emerging readers. The laugh-out-loud mystery unfolds over six chapters, breathing humor into genre tropes. With a vocabulary of around 150 words and multiple sentences per page, the text is a bit more complex than earlier series entries. The creators’ successful subversion of moralistic primers will inevitably delight readers (though grown-ups may find the moral ambiguity unsettling). Jack at Bat, which publishes simultaneously, gives Jack a chance to settle the score between rival baseball teams—provided he can follow the rules of the game. The humans in Jack Goes West predominantly present white with the exception of the Law Lady, a woman of color, but those in Jack at Bat are diverse in skin tone. As with the other books in the series, each book ends with drawing instructions.

Bank on fun with this one—it’ll rope readers in. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11388-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


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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