Like the eponymous dish, this will whet limited appetites.

A BOOK FOR ESCARGOT

A Francophone snail struggles to find itself in a story.

Escargot, a cartoon snail in a blue-and-white–striped shirt, a red kerchief, and a black beret, immediately breaks the fourth wall, opening with: “Bonjour! I see you are reading a book. I will try not to distract you.” (The “you” here at the end is revealed to be a smiling black child holding a paintbrush. It’s all very meta.) Of course, what follows is a meandering distraction. Escargot first talks about different books “you” might like, then laments the lack of vibrant, positive snail representation in these stories. Escargot then brags about itself, imagining that “you” are addressing it: “The main character of a story must have a problem, Escargot! You are so handsome, suave, and smart. What problem could you possibly have?” (The proliferation of “you”s here, referring to very distinctly different “you”s, will pose a challenge to young readers not totally conversant with the conventions of dialogue.) The problem turns out to be that Escargot is tired of salads. The ensuing adventure involves finding a French cookbook, learning that snails could be on the menu, and deciding that the only way to save the day is to eat the cookbook. It’s barely even a story, and the annoyingly grandiose narrator is likely to lead non-Francophones to attempt a mocking French accent during read-alouds, an exhausting gag that tires itself out.

Like the eponymous dish, this will whet limited appetites. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-31286-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Hee haw.

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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