It doesn’t outshine the original, but it’s a romping, regional retelling that introduces new animals to boot.


“There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” gets a down-home Texan transformation.

An exaggerated blockhead of a cowboy accidentally swallows a fire ant. His eyes bulge and cheeks puff wide—“The cowpoke panted, and his voice got higher. / ‘Yippie-ti-yay! My stomach’s on fire!’ ” He needs to fix this situation right quick. So what does he do? Why, swallow a spider, of course. But that spider (complete with eight eyes) wiggles and waggles inside him. And so he downs a string of Southwestern creatures—a snake, a roadrunner, an armadillo (shortened to “ ’dillo” for the rhythm’s sake), a boar and more. The poor cowpoke looks more bedraggled and desperate with each passing animal. But before the expected tragic end of the cumulative song can befall him, determination kicks in. He sets his 10-gallon hat firmly on his head and declares, “If I want it done right, I’ll do it myself.” In a twist sure to stop young readers in their tracks, the cowboy swallows his rope, his horse and…himself. Those animals stampede right out of his mouth. Warm, sun-baked hues and wide-mouthed gulping scenes amp up the lunacy. Alas, the rhythm takes some bumpy turns, so singing out loud requires practice.

It doesn’t outshine the original, but it’s a romping, regional retelling that introduces new animals to boot. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7850-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


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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