A story that may encourage readers to be writers, too.

AMY THE RED PANDA IS WRITING THE BEST STORY IN THE WORLD

A paean to playfulness and following one’s own vision as essential to creativity.

In this follow-up to Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World (2016), the eponymous red panda attempts to write a story. A bevy of animals (who’ll be familiar to readers of the prior title) helpfully offer ideas, but their onslaught of input ends up paralyzing poor Amy rather than inspiring her. Chan’s crowded, cartoon-style illustrations contribute to the depiction of this less-than-supportive environment as the repeated main text (the words of the title) is overwhelmed by a mounting crowd of animals with speech-balloon suggestions while Amy cowers to the side. Beside her is calm and quiet Mervin, who ultimately offers a playful solution to the conundrum Amy faces: in a metafictive turn, after a gazelle bumps loose the letter O from the word “world,” he tosses it about. Distraught Amy is initially oblivious to his playful gestures, but when she catches on she’s eager to join him in a “LETTER FIGHT!!!” In perhaps an underwhelming payoff on the title’s promise, their fun inspires Amy to retrieve some of the fallen letters and write “Amy and Mervin had a fun day” as her “best story in the world.”

A story that may encourage readers to be writers, too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233848-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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 nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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