For clever cautionary tales with a lingering bite, try those by Jon Scieszka, James Marshall or Jon Klassen.


“The Gingerbread Boy” meets “The Mitten” in this tale of a self-centered (and doomed) protagonist squawking about an increasingly crowded setting.

The digital mixed-media sky is blue, and the clouds are puffy as a yellow bird descends to a deserted dry patch of ground in the pond. The peace is short-lived; a shadow blocks the sun, and a heron descends, followed by a frog and a turtle—each uttering the titular phrase, much to the vocal and graceless annoyance of the grumpy bird. When a fox begins to speak, readers may assume this is the end—or that he is about to echo the others—but the rude protagonist sends the animals scurrying with this interruption: “WELL, PARDON ME, BUT THIS IS MY PERCH, AND I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY!” As night falls, he achieves ultimate rest when the “land mass” rises, and the crocodile he’s been sitting on has the last “pardon”—a burp. This one-trick book is entertaining enough on the first read: The contrast between the warm and cool palettes as the action ascends and descends and the twist in the final scene will hold children’s interest. On rereadings, however, the soft focus, overly determined digital strokes and sarcastic patter offer little to sustain attention.

For clever cautionary tales with a lingering bite, try those by Jon Scieszka, James Marshall or Jon Klassen. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8997-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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 good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.


Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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