“Yummy” may be highly subjective, but friendship is transcendent.

I REALLY LIKE SLOP!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

“Pigs really, really, really, really, really like slop!”

In fact, “eating slop is part of pig culture,” so when Gerald the elephant turns up his trunk at best friend Piggie’s reeking, green bowlful (“The flies are how you know it is ripe!”), she takes it very personally. Seeing her devastation, Gerald steels himself to “try a small taste,” using his trunk to transfer a tiny globule to a very reluctant tongue. A comedic four-page sequence ensues, in which Gerald’s disgust is dramatized with very un-elephantlike coloration, contortions, and many repetitions of “Urk!” (Turns out old shoes are the secret ingredient.) Willems exploits his audience’s familiarity with the beloved characters to deliver a humorous update of Green Eggs and Ham, combining it with a message about not just friendship and trying new things, but cross-cultural understanding. With cultural awareness an ever more prominent element of school curricula, it’s likely kids will understand it immediately. Picky eaters will see themselves in Gerald, and they will appreciate his bravery and generosity of spirit. Once he’s tasted it, Gerald confesses that he does not particularly like slop, but he’s glad he tried it: “Because I really like you,” he tells a pleased Piggie.

“Yummy” may be highly subjective, but friendship is transcendent. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2262-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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