Silly fun! (Pass it on.) (Picture book. 4-7)

TELEPHONE

Barnett and Corace set up an absurdist version of the old “pass it on” game of Telephone, siting it quite literally—along a line of birds on a wire.

An aproned pigeon with a steaming deep-dish pie tells a baseball bat–toting young cardinal: “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.” The cardinal translates the message to a goose in a pilot’s cap and goggles: “Tell Peter: Hit pop flies and homers.” The goose tells a feather-dusting ostrich in a French maid’s get-up, “Tell Peter: Prop planes are for fliers.” The maid interprets, “Tell Peter: Put your wet socks in the dryer.” And so it goes, with seven more birds relaying the message with new twists that reflect their respective avocations, from rock star to firefighter. That seventh fowl, a certifiably paranoid chicken, conveys to an unruffled owl a message that wildly mixes up all of the previous ones: “Tell Peter: There’s a giant monster lobster named Homer! / He smells like socks and he breathes red fire! / …and he’s coming to this wire! / Tell Peter to fly! / …He’s too young to be / somebody’s dinner!” Corace cleverly outfits her mixed-media birds with accoutrements including an electric guitar, cameras, books and—for Peter and his baseball teammates—bubble gum. The sage, bookish owl gets the message right, and Peter, ostensibly, his dinner.

Silly fun! (Pass it on.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1023-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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