Joining the growing colony of self-referential meta–kid lit, this one-joke treatment has its moments. And the recipes...



From the Mixed-Up Book series

A purported editing error—substituting the letter “p” for “f” on a critical word throughout—transforms a tribute to figs into an appreciation of—pigs!

Initiating the high jinks, a mock “Message from the Publisher” conveys the error to readers (while griping about the author’s overreaching insistence on the disclaimer). Handwritten notes appear throughout, with the editor’s instructions and the author’s irritated, red-penciled responses. Palatini provides historical details about the fig in Greece, Egypt and Europe, information about certain named cultivars and a gushy author’s note, with recipes. Meanwhile, Groenink playfully sides with the editor, producing digital, gouache and pencil pictures teeming with pigs. “Some pigs are very popular and quite famous, such as Blanche, Celeste, Len and Tena. Of course, everyone knows Judy.” Groenink depicts these bona fide fig cultivars as porcine celebrities adorning the covers of Pigs Weekly and Porque. His “Judy” looks quite like Judy Garland, in black fedora and tuxedo jacket à la Summer Stock. The author’s escalating outrage at her narrative’s hijacking manifests in angry cross-outs and mock-vindictive, defacing cartoons. There’s no question the joke is well-executed, and it’s very funny for an audience that knows something about figs, but it will probably seem like more of the metaliterary same for most actual children.

Joining the growing colony of self-referential meta–kid lit, this one-joke treatment has its moments. And the recipes work—for figs. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1488-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...


It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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