While Killion’s efforts to highlight a little-known creature and teach a moral lesson are commendable, the preachy tone may...


Combining elements of the traditional folk tale and an Aesop’s fable, Killion offers a moral tale about how the now-threatened argus pheasant learned to sleep through the night.

In a jungle in Thailand, an argus pheasant is born with an unusually long and brightly colored tail and is named Little Lek Longtail by his “proud mother.” As he grows, his tail also grows: “longer, brighter, and more beautiful.” Despite his beauty, Lek is kind and thoughtful, a friend to all the other birds in the forest. However, he is afraid of nighttime predators—so afraid he cannot fall asleep. Even his mother cannot comfort him. One day, Lek sees a man and his son outsmart a bask of crocodiles to safely cross a river. In amazement he concludes, “There is always a way if one just thinks of it.” Lek begins to observe other creatures using their attributes and talents to help themselves and realizes he can use his long, extravagant tale as an alarm of sorts. In contrast to Killion’s dry and contrived text, Vidal’s vivid and vibrant art shines. She deliberately omits white space, packing a profusion of color, details, and textures across the pages to re-create the dense, diverse jungles of Southeast Asia. The appendix provides interesting argus pheasant facts.

While Killion’s efforts to highlight a little-known creature and teach a moral lesson are commendable, the preachy tone may turn off kids and adults alike. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937786-63-2

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Wisdom Tales

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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


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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