BILL AND PETE TO THE RESCUE

The adventures of Bill the crocodile and his sidekick Pete the plover (Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile, 1987, etc.) continue with this trans-Atlantic rescue of Bill’s little cousin Jane Allison. She’s been been kidnapped from her Nile home by the Bad Guy’s Big Bad Brother, to be showcased at his Exotic Animal Farm in New Orleans. Bill and Pete get wind of the heist and stow away on the boat transporting Jane Allison. The story gets a little involved: Pete is incarcerated and Bill forms an animal liberation group with some Cajun alligators—Bubba and his cousins—whom he meets in Decatur Bayou. Pete escapes and joins Bill and the new friends in the freeing of Jane Allison and her fellow inmates at the farm. DePaola has laced the story with clever quips—Pete, who has been caught and caged on the top floor of a swanky home, says to himself, “It is lonely up here at the top,” and Bill’s mother says, “It’s times like these that I wish your father was here, and not a suitcase”—and his illustrations are highly amusing. It strains the series to work in that New Orleans backdrop, but readers will still be hoping for another glimpse—on any continent—of Bill and Pete. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 13, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23208-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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