An entertaining effort with a disappointing denouement.

PRINCE RIBBIT

Three pink-cheeked, white princesses meet a conniving frog in this amusing metafictional parody of “The Frog Prince.”

The two older sisters are elegant young ladies in jewels and brocade gowns who sit in the palace garden reading fairy tales. They sit quietly and read “The Frog Prince,” while their much younger sister, Princess Martha, prefers learning facts and studying real frogs. A clever frog introduces himself as the ensorcelled Prince Ribbit and convinces the older sisters to take him indoors for a pampered life. Spunky Princess Martha, with red, curly hair and glasses, sees through the frog’s ruse. Her sisters offer fairy tales to prove their point, while Martha counters with informational texts, triggering the story’s refrain: “Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true.” The older sisters kiss the frog to try to break the spell and turn him into a handsome prince and future husband, but Martha tries to befriend the frog, sealing the deal with a gentle kiss. In a surprising twist ending, the frog turns into a dark-haired, pale-skinned prince who is “SO handsome that Martha decided she DID want to marry him after all.” The final page, however, shows Martha laughing with the real frog, along with the story’s thematic advice not to believe everything, as “just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true.” Despite the tongue-in-cheek ambiguity of the ending, the story seems to reinforce the notion that partners should be chosen based on appearances. In addition, Princess Martha appears far too young to be contemplating marriage, so the moment when readers think she is may unsettle them. A huge trim size and digitally produced illustrations in bright, jewel tones add appeal.

An entertaining effort with a disappointing denouement. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56145-761-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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 good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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