The illustrations are delicious, but the tale cuts little new ground.

SHIFTY MCGIFTY AND SLIPPERY SAM

Some rather slim fun about a couple of dogs making indecently sweet desserts.

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are two pooches in the robbery biz. But they are a luckless duo, their swag bag empty night after night. They hit on a plan—not a very community-minded one—to rob their neighbors. They’ll throw a party, and when everyone is making merry, Shifty and Sam will sneak out and ransack their homes. Bad dogs! Shifty and Sam also realize that they have to make fixings for the party and fall pretty hard for the art of baking: cupcakes, pies, cakes and doughnuts—“So creamy!” “So dreamy!” “The best buns in town!” gasp their neighbors. When the two dogs make their nefarious move, one of the partygoers overhears their plan and alerts the others, who follow at a distance. Shifty and Sam are thwarted. They are advised to go legit: Open a bakery. No clever turns here, no unexpected much of anything: The two dogs are on the path to rightness since their path to wrongness was a bust. The rhymed text is comfortable and has a certain melody; the artwork of pastel oil and chalk in party colors—pastry’s best friends on the page—is pure confection.

The illustrations are delicious, but the tale cuts little new ground. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6838-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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