Despite textual trip-ups, a satisfying story overall.


Mouse and his friends build a house and then defend it from…a ghost?

Two stories, “Mouse House” and “Mouse Mystery,” in one book introduce readers to Mouse and his buddies, who are more than happy to help him both build his house and figure out how to trap a mysterious intruder. Simple vocabulary that’s easy for new readers to decode is the order of the day, but this does not make the book ideal for them. The narrative moves back and forth from lightly rhymed verse (clunky in places) to unrhymed text, making it hard to read aloud. “ ‘Turn out your lights / so the ghost cannot see,’ / said Mole hopefully.” Moreover, just when readers get a rhythm going, the text returns to unrhymed prose. Providing chapter headings every four pages (and every 30-50 words) also breaks up the satisfying story. The art, a winning combination of pencil, watercolor and collage, is the star here. Each spread is filled with humor and detail: Animals wear clothes, the goat is always hungry, and a wise owl watches from a hole in the tree. When Mouse finally catches the intruder, readers will celebrate new friendship with all the animals. The thick, oversized paper, in combination with the brightly colored cartoon illustrations, gives this a warm, throwback feel.

Despite textual trip-ups, a satisfying story overall. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60905-050-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Blue Apple

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.


From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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