Fun; kids should lap this up fur storytime.

CAT PROBLEMS

From the Animal Problems series

Life as a cat can give one paws.

The angst-y feline narrator has quite a tale to tell, grumbling sardonically about how impurr-fect life is as an indoor-only cat; screeching about various daily woes, like “only” getting “nineteen hours of sleep” and why another cat’s sitting where it wants to; and making constant demands (“What does it take to get a little bowl service around here?”) All in all, this furry complainer seems to have a lot to yammer about. “Things would be different if I knew how to open a door,” it grumps. The cat’s whiny, self-centered personality is wittily conveyed, but its wry monologue also elicits sympathy; cat guardians might not consider how frustrating it might be for a pet to be permanently housebound. When the cat bemoans its fate to a squirrel through the window screen, the street-smart rodent offers perspective. Readers who’ve been owned by kitties will laugh knowingly at the protagonist’s shifty mental processes and comical shenanigans. The frenetic illustrations, with a limited palette of mostly browns, tans, and grays, gibe well with the humorous text. Innovative book design enhances the visual appeal, with text placement and white space focusing attention. Numerous spreads are set in panels for quick pacing; many words/phrases are set in various fonts for dramatic effect. Note the frayed ends on some letters in the title on the dust jacket. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Fun; kids should lap this up fur storytime. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30213-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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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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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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