Amusing to the point of provoking an inquiry. Really, it’s the bee’s knees.


Idioms get a run for their money in this good-humored and stimulating piece of wordplay from Nichols.

Nichols lays the figurative speech on thick in this mystery being tackled by the Gumshoe Zoo detective team, and he keeps the humor on high alert by using a team of animals as investigators. Animals, of course, are a favorite idiomatic tool, so apologies are flying as fast as the idioms: “Hmm...Yes. There’s something fishy going on around here. / Oh! No offense, Reggie,” says Quentin the goat. “None taken,” says Reggie the fish, adding, “There is some definite monkey business at hand, my friend. / Ooh. I didn’t mean anything by that, Steve,” says Reggie. “No sweat,” says Steve the monkey, adding, “And I agree. I smell a rat.” Nichols has illustrated the story in comic-book panels—some full-page, others with two or more a page—which gives the book both compression of language and expansion of story. The art itself is finely cartoony and as elemental as the periodic table. There are also zoomed-in panels that work a bit like a jigsaw puzzle to help readers determine if foul play is afoot. A concluding note provides further information, and it seems pretty natural that kids will want to learn something more about idioms from this first pleasing immersion.

Amusing to the point of provoking an inquiry. Really, it’s the bee’s knees. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3182-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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