A soft-boiled animal detective story sure to please beginning readers.


From the Mack Rhino, Private Eye series , Vol. 1

It’s up to a rhino private eye to solve a mystery and prevent a cheater from winning the Big Race.

Private eye Mack Rhino and his trusty bird assistant, Redd, are off to buy new furniture (as the rhino has splintered yet another desk chair) when a mysterious phone call offers Mack his 100th case: a mystery concerning shoes. But the harried caller, who dropped clues off at the wrong address, doesn’t give Mack much to go on. Even worse, a jailbreak at the ant farm upstate means some of the usual suspects are back in action—and likely with an ally. Meanwhile, the two favorites for the Big Race are Jackie Rabbit, who wants to donate the prize money to build a playground, and Skunks McGee, under scrutiny for his track record of cheating. Other runners experience pre-race troubles in the form of vanishing shoelaces. Mack must think fast to distract Skunks during the race so that the sabotaged Jackie can win, and then to explain how Skunks did it—the suspected team-up with the Ant Hill Gang. The clues are clear enough for the target audience of emerging readers to solve the mystery themselves (the cast size and subplots made manageable with a cast of characters and glossary), and the puns bring laughs. Black-and-white cartoon illustrations tend to highlight slapstick.

A soft-boiled animal detective story sure to please beginning readers. (Mystery. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4113-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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