BETSY WHO CRIED WOLF

Levine continues her tradition of reworked fairy tales with strong heroines begun with Ella Enchanted (1999) in this delightful tale of a bright young girl who can stand up for herself and the sheep she guards. When Betsy turns eight, she proudly takes the Shepherd’s Oath, determined to be the best shepherd ever. Meanwhile, the last wolf on the mountain is hungry, lonely, and devising a plan to have sheep for his next meal. When Zimmo makes his appearance before Betsy and her flock, she blows her whistle and the farmers come running. But the crafty Zimmo has disappeared—part of his master plan. He repeats the show the next day—same deal. Sent back to Shepherd School and given one last chance, she packs her lunch and tends her flock. But there is Zimmo again, and this time he is charging right at them. Blowing her whistle fails to bring any farmers, so Betsy gets ready to hurl her lunch at the wolf, at which point he sits down and howls for food. Realizing that he is just hungry, the crafty heroine feeds him and he leaves the sheep alone. The sheep sum up one of the story’s morals quite nicely: unlike the original fairy tale, “People who cry wolf may be deceived and not deceivers.” Nash’s (The Bugliest Bug, not reviewed, etc.) personified sheep are a stitch—walking on two legs, posing for a dive into the Soakenwetz River, belaying down a cliff, and always commenting on the current state of the story. Especially funny are the endpapers, where readers can eavesdrop on the sheep’s conversations. A must-have. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: June 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-028763-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2002

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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