Music lovers might appreciate this slight story that ties the creation of a popular classical sonata to a pampered pet, but...


Despite an intriguing premise, Lachenmeyer and Beccia’s collaboration doesn’t quite manage to produce a pleasing composition.

Legend has it that Scarlatti’s "Sonata in G Minor" was inspired by his pet cat, Pulcinella. Lachenmeyer uses this as a jumping-off point and imagines that the fancy feline has a particular interest in (and talent for) composition. Though initially stymied by Scarlatti’s dictum that no one may touch his harpsichord, Pulcinella gets her chance one day when a bold mouse in a bright blue vest pops up and leads both cat and master on a merry chase. When her paws hit the keys, Pulcinella begins to play. Initially captivated, Scarlatti later worries about the impact of her talent on his livelihood and decides that passing his pet on to a friend is the best way to protect himself and other composers. Beccia’s illustrations feature subdued colors, elaborate details and faux crackling to enhance the historical feel. Unfortunately, the stiffness of the figures, though artistically appropriate, creates a sense of distance. Unlikely events, uneven pacing, and the unsettling, if ultimately amusing, finale further reduce the already limited appeal.

Music lovers might appreciate this slight story that ties the creation of a popular classical sonata to a pampered pet, but most young listeners will simply be left wondering what poor Pulcinella did to be abandoned by her owner. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5472-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


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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