A real-life, triumphant horse story worth telling to children, but this attempt falls a bit flat.



A picture-book adaptation of Letts’ nonfiction bestseller, The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation (2012).

Snowman's story is well known: Saved from a slaughterhouse at the last minute when horse-riding instructor Harry de Leyer purchased him for $80, the gaunt, bedraggled horse didn't fit in at the school for girls where de Leyer taught. But after being sold to a boy living several miles away, the horse repeatedly jumped tall pasture fences to return to what he thought of as home. De Leyer bought him back and trained him; within two years, Snowman was a show-jumping champion. This picture book will be equally appealing to children and adults. Harren's action-packed illustrations, some based on iconic photographs of Snowman, serve it well. However, presumably in an effort to make the story more child-friendly, Letts moves the point of view from de Leyer to his daughter Harriet then back again to de Leyer, a narrative technique that feels clumsy. The book contains some factual inaccuracies: Snowman is described as “old”; the kill man, not de Leyer, brings the horse home to the farm; and de Leyer and his wife are shown as having three children (they had eight). De Leyer and his family are White, as are most background characters. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A real-life, triumphant horse story worth telling to children, but this attempt falls a bit flat. (Nonfiction picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-17385-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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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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