A lovely but garbled fable


Pond life: an interrupted idyll.

“Once upon a time there was a pond, and in that pond lived a lot of frogs.” And they are a fine-looking army of frogs, decked out in French sailor shirts, singing songs, nabbing flies, snoozing, and attending to their coffee and paper on lily pads as delicate as etchings, all courtesy of Somà. Alas, one day a frog-sized crown falls into the water. One expert diver of a frog surfaces with the trophy and plops it on. A few other frogs get it into their heads that they will be her advisers and start bossing the other frogs around. Cali does not make it clear why this is so, since the frogs have seemingly always lived a democratic life and none of them “had ever seen a queen, and no one knew what to do or say. Finally, one of the frogs shouted, ‘Long live the queen!’ ” Despite the milieu, this doesn’t feel very organic. The queen takes on airs and entitlements; she is all-powerful and the best at everything. The other frogs even have to entertain her, such as the diving contest organized by the advisers. The common frogs urge the queen to dive, to show them how she is the best. She does, and predictably, the crown falls off and sinks into the mud. The metaphorical queen is dead; long live the common frog.

A lovely but garbled fable . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5481-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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