Rodent or no, Meteor sure is one heck of a space ambassador

MOUSETRONAUT GOES TO MARS

When NASA announces the crew of the upcoming Mars mission, Meteor the Mousetronaut is, shockingly, not on the list.

No matter; the little mouse isn’t about to let his training go to waste. He packs his spacesuit and stows away on the Galaxy, floating out to scavenge crumbs while the human crew sleeps. After six months, the Galaxy reaches Mars orbit—but one of the landing craft’s engines fails, and the remaining one isn’t strong enough to transport even one human. Meteor volunteers for duty and, equipped with a tiny American flag, descends to the Red Planet to gather rock samples. Six months later, he returns to Earth to be welcomed as a hero with the other astronauts. While this story inevitably lacks the freshness of Meteor’s debut (Mousetronaut, 2012), Kelly’s prose and storytelling have matured, and Meteor’s enthusiasm is as infectious as ever. Payne’s delightfully regular-looking, multiethnic and gender-inclusive crew displays the same winning combination of heroism and lumpiness (the mission commander has an endearingly potatolike face) that distinguished the first adventure. Perhaps what’s most striking about this book, though, is the four-page afterword, in which Kelly summarizes the history of Mars exploration and discusses the potential for a real manned mission. His eloquence in advocating for a vigorous space program bespeaks both passion and experience.

Rodent or no, Meteor sure is one heck of a space ambassador . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8426-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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