A pensive, allegorical fairy tale for readers ready to sit with perplexity.

THE LIZARD

Panic ensues when an unwelcome guest arrives.

A lizard appears in the Chiado neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal. It stops in the middle of the street, halting cars and causing an old woman to scream. People scatter in fear, planes fly overhead, all while the lizard remains mostly unperturbed. Finally, the people launch an attack, and, “thanks to the fairies,” the lizard “was transformed into a crimson rose.” The rose blooms, turns white, then becomes a dove. The narrator claims in the opening that “this is a fairy tale,” for “in what other kind of story would a lizard appear in Chiado?” Semantic arguments aside, this tale is high-concept fiction. With political-leaning overtones, the 1998 Nobel Prize–winning Saramago integrates overriding realism akin to Aesop with Carrollian exaggeration. Young non-Portuguese readers may need an older reader to help interpret the tale’s meaning (and the older reader may also need some outside help). Borges contributes bold, rustic woodcuts that leave plenty of room for symbolic interpretations. There is a visual lack of continuity between pages, with the described “green” lizard alternatively appearing in black and red shades while its head and number of legs also changes. Like the story itself, the translation challenges readers with sophisticated vocabulary.

A pensive, allegorical fairy tale for readers ready to sit with perplexity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60980-933-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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 nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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