Riff-raff rules in this joyful, playful, high energy “great big night."


The arrival of a troupe of itinerant musicians means it’s time for a “great big night” for all—except one grumbling grouse. When the “music train,” consisting of three frogs on painted bicycles with an eclectic assemblage of musical instruments, pedals into the “great green forest,” excited animals quickly gather. As the frogs play loud, bouncy music, the animals dance jigs, spin reels, sing, and stomp until Grouse intervenes, shouting, “No good comes from a ruckus,” and ordering them to “lay off this…this…RIFF-RAFF!” Then a thunderstorm sends everyone into hiding during a “long and boggle-eyed night,” but the following morning the sun shines for all—except Grouse, whose home and treasures have been destroyed. Before Grouse knows what’s happening, however, the frogs start playing their music, drawing all the animals “lickety-split” to help their grouchy, needy neighbor. The rhythmic, vibrant verse text, peppered with lively onomatopoeic sounds, dances off the pages, begging to be read aloud. Wild, whimsical, and slightly surreal illustrations, rendered in sprightly collage and brilliantly colored paint, perfectly capture the raucous energy of the jiving frogs and hilarious bevy of cavorting animals as well as the terror of the fierce storm and the harmonious, attitude-altering camaraderie of neighbors helping one another. Riff-raff rules in this joyful, playful, high energy “great big night." (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77108-908-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development.


From the McKellar Math series

A child who insists on having MORE of everything gets MORE than she can handle.

Demanding young Moxie Jo is delighted to discover that pushing the button on a stick she finds in the yard doubles anything she points to. Unfortunately, when she points to her puppy, Max, the button gets stuck—and in no time one dog has become two, then four, then eight, then….Readers familiar with the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” or Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona will know how this is going to go, and Masse obliges by filling up succeeding scenes with burgeoning hordes of cute yellow puppies enthusiastically making a shambles of the house. McKellar puts an arithmetical spin on the crisis—“The number of pups exponentially grew: / They each multiplied times a factor of 2!” When clumsy little brother Clark inadvertently intervenes, Moxie Jo is left wiser about her real needs (mostly). An appended section uses lemons to show how exponential doubling quickly leads to really big numbers. Stuart J. Murphy’s Double the Ducks (illustrated by Valeria Petrone, 2002) in the MathStart series explores doubling from a broader perspective and includes more backmatter to encourage further study, but this outing adds some messaging: Moxie Jo’s change of perspective may give children with sharing issues food for thought. She and her family are White; her friends are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-101-93386-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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