MR. WATSON'S CHICKENS

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens. (Oh, and Mr. Watson and Mr. Nelson, too.)

Mr. Watson and Mr. Nelson, a queer couple who live in a “big, honking house with a teeny-tiny yard in a big, honking city” with Mr. Watson’s 456 chickens, have a problem. No, it’s not stains on the furniture (although that might be problem)—it’s the noise of the chickens, led by brown hen Aunt Agnes and her song: “Shooby-doo, wonky-pow, bawka-bawka in da chow-chow.” It’s a song she sings constantly, and it’s driving a wedge between Messrs. Watson and Nelson. The solution—crating up the chickens to find them new homes at the county fair—stumbles (literally) when Mr. Watson trips on a ball and the chickens get loose, disappearing into the fair. The story is amusing if on the twee side. Frequent repeated phrases will assist skilled storytellers in performing the tale effectively, although the detailed, chicken-filled illustrations will make the book difficult to use with large groups. Chicken-loving lapsitters, however, will find much to look at. Whatever the setting, adults sharing this should be prepared to engage with the difficult and not-so-subtle message that pets are easily disposed of once their novelty has worn off. Mr. Watson present White, and Mr. Nelson presents Asian. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

This egg is cracked. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7714-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Silly reads for new readers to dig into.

THERE'S A PEST IN THE GARDEN!

From the Giggle Gang series

A turnip-loving duck and its friends defend their garden.

Alas, the duck, sheep, dog, and donkey immediately discover the eponymous pest in the garden when it (a groundhog?) eats a row of beans. The duck is frantic that turnips are next, but instead the pest eats the sheep’s favorite crop: corn. Peas occupy the next row, and the pest gobbles them up, too. Instead of despairing, however, the donkey cries, “Yippee! He ate ALL THE PEAS!” and catching the others’ puzzled looks, continues, “I don’t like peas.” After this humorous twist, the only uneaten row is sown with turnips, and the duck leaps to devour them before the pest can do so. In a satisfying, funny conclusion, the duck beams when the dog, sheep, and donkey resolve to plant a new garden and protect it with a fence, only to find out that it will exclude not just the groundhog, but the duck, too. A companion release, What Is Chasing Duck?, has the same brand of humor and boldly outlined figures rendered in a bright palette, but its storyline doesn’t come together as well since it’s unclear why the duck is scared and why the squirrel that was chasing it doesn’t recognize the others when they turn and chase him at book’s end.

Silly reads for new readers to dig into. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-94165-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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