Molto bene! (Picture book. 4-8)

PAOLO, EMPEROR OF ROME

A canine escapee gets his own Roman holiday.

Paolo, a dachshund, would rather explore the streets of Rome than lie around inside his hair-salon home. Every time he dares to make an escape out the door, his owner, Signora Pianostrada, blocks her “Lazy Paolo” with her foot. But one day, Signora Pianostrada starts putting curlers in a client’s hair before remembering to close the door, and off Paolo goes. The pup’s newfound freedom takes him all over Rome—for, as he says, unlike the statues he sees, “I am made of muscles, and can go wherever I please.” He stares down cats in a field full of ruins. He becomes leader of a pack of dogs. He even tries his hand at heroics. Above all else, he conquers the city, proving that he’s more imperial than lazy. Barnett’s theatrical narrator works in tandem with the hilariously pompous pooch to carry this rib-tickling romp with infectious bravado. Keane’s illustrations feature thick black outlines and an earthy, Mediterranean color palette applied with the look of oil pastels. The beautifully textured architecture and action sequences harken back to classic picture-book artists like Ludwig Bemelmans, Dr. Seuss, and H.A. Rey. A pair of wordless spreads even gives the pup a wild rumpus. Though it’s mostly an animal story, the human characters are racially diverse. Endpapers depict a small map of Rome with Italian labels.

Molto bene! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4109-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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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