A strange and provocative addition to the canon of trickster tales.

FIDDLE DEE DEE!

From the African savanna comes a trickster tale featuring a clever monkey and his musical bow.

Monkey finds the bow and is plucking out notes with it when Hyena comes along and accuses Monkey of robbery. This is a dilemma that must be solved by the opinionated Lion. Unfortunately, Lion has a corrupt streak and demands the bow. Monkey beseeches Lion to allow him to play it one last time. As he does, all the animals begin dancing themselves into a frenzy. Monkey plays faster and faster and is able to take advantage of the animals’ exhaustion to keep the bow for himself. The story is laden with the aggression that tends to accompany such trickster tales, in which a physically weak animal often utilizes intellect and wit to outsmart a stronger creature. This is accentuated by Grobler’s distinctively splattery and somewhat macabre illustrations. Messy lines and vigorous flourishes create a grim dreamscape. Readers will likely respond to the imagery with immense attraction or revulsion; there is little room for middle ground. Though a small note about the story indicates its South African origins, within the text a generic “Africa” setting is, unfortunately, deployed, perpetuating an image of the continent in which all that exists are wilderness and the animals that inhabit it. A note on the instrument follows.

A strange and provocative addition to the canon of trickster tales. (Picture book/folktale. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-91095-975-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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