A delicious blend of the fanciful yet realistic.

GRUMPYCORN

A unicorn with writer’s block turns into a whole story.

Unicorn has every writer’s dream setup: a charming, cozy, isolated shack well stocked with writing supplies, friends to bring him snacks, and time to write. But he “didn’t know where to begin his story.” He assembles his special writing implements and beverages to boost his creative juices. But: “I wish an idea would come knocking at my door,” he says, and in riotously colored spreads, supportive sea creatures try to help. Narwhal asks to be a character, Mermaid brings him cookies as a bribe for a featured role, and Jellyfish bubbles over with ideas. But Unicorn refuses to see these as anything other than distractions, yelling “I can’t get ANY ideas because everyone keeps bothering me!” After he throws his notebook and special pen into the sea, his friends find the empty notebook and decide to fill it with their own story, relating everything that just happened in the preceding pages with themselves in starring roles. Each spread offers a wealth of details for readers to pore over, and the goofy sea creatures are fun and clever. Silent sea horses, trailing in the background, help bring the story to a satisfying conclusion in the endpapers. This hits just the right notes, engaging children, who will want to yell at the stubborn unicorn, and making any procrastinating adults chuckle in recognition.

A delicious blend of the fanciful yet realistic. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-61799-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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