Delightfully on-brand. Kids will book it to the shelves for this one.

WHO IS THE MYSTERY READER?

From the Unlimited Squirrels series

The Unlimited Squirrels return for a metafictive romp—hooray!

Carrying a copy of the book (yes, this book), one squirrel asks “Who is the MYSTERY READER?” The others respond, one after another: “Let’s. Read. And. Find out!” So begins this sequel to I Lost My Tooth! (2018), a brilliant, 96-page laugh track composed of four stories and three “acorn-y” jokes. In the first story, the squirrels struggle to decode the letters of a stop sign. Thankfully, the heroic Mystery Reader arrives on the scene—complete with mask and underpants—to help them sound out their letters: “Ssssttt… / …OP!” The second story includes a brief history of writing systems (and a web address for further info); the third divulges “Mo Squirrel’s” own writing process. Though narratively all over the place (in a good way), this takes the self-referential torch from We Are in a Book! (2010) and highlights the next step up in reading development. Willems’ high-interest presentation and formula create a familiar, entertaining format that combines fact, fiction, and plenty of squirrels. The text complexity is similar to that found in the Elephant and Piggie books, but there are more color-coded dialogue bubbles per page. Willems also employs “emote-acorns” to highlight characters’ emotions. Readers may never find out who the Mystery Reader is, but, in the process of investigating, they just might sound out their own reading superpowers!

Delightfully on-brand. Kids will book it to the shelves for this one. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04686-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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