A thin rendering of an uninspired story.

AW, NUTS!

What self-respecting squirrel wouldn’t take off in hot pursuit of the Platonic acorn?

As squirrels do, this one is squirreling away nuts for the coming winter. He’s already got a nice little hoard, but one escapes the jam-packed larder. It doesn’t escape Squirrel’s notice, though. This is no regular acorn: Perhaps it was the acorn of youth or the acorn of plenty. Anyway, Squirrel chases it across town via taxi, pogo stick, delivery van, dog, boat, horse, even a helium balloon, until the acorn comes to rest in a mountain of acorns. Squirrel plucks the artful, dodging acorn and brings it home—along with all the other acorns—for a special repast. Just as he is settled in his easy chair, well, another acorn catches his eye as it pops free of the fold….Chasing a dream should not be denied, but it looks like Squirrel is getting awfully hungry. Plus, it is hard to differentiate the everyday from the sublime here: A joke about a one-note creature is hard to raise above the, well, single note. The artwork feels more like it is on celluloid than canvas or paper, the washed-out colors also lacking depth or texture.

A thin rendering of an uninspired story. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-231729-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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