The circus train stops here after a good run.

THE FARMER AND THE CIRCUS

From the Farmer Books series

Frazee’s third installment in her wordless picture-book series is a family affair.

Frazee uses the frontmatter to begin her tale as, on the title page, the clown child who met the farmer in the trilogy’s first installment is shown rejecting a motherly clown’s offering of a clown suit. Instead, the child chooses the farmerlike outfit donned in Book 1 and is wearing it when the monkey protagonist of Book 2 reappears with items from the farmer’s abode. It’s a happy reunion of monkey and child, whose play evokes their times on the farm. Their joy is eclipsed only by the eventual appearance of the doting farmer, who comes to the circus after the little clown’s community of performers raises the big top on the prairie. The real drama takes place outside the tent, however, when romance blooms between the farmer and the clown’s mother as they bond over juggling, music, dancing, and pie. At the book’s end, the foursome leaves the circus and heads home to the farmer’s house, which Frazee depicts bathed in a rosy sunset, the landscape embellished with flowers. It’s a happily-ever-after sort of ending, though some readers may be weary of depictions of monkeys as quasi-children, and others may wonder why the farmer didn’t join the circus instead of relocating everyone to his home. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.3-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 19.3% of actual size.)

The circus train stops here after a good run. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4621-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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