A sweet and spunky everyday adventure.

MAX ON THE FARM

From the Max and Friends series , Vol. 3

Two friends sneak off on a late-night adventure during their class field trip in this third series installment by Stonewall Award–winner Lukoff.

White, transgender boy Max and his friend Teresa, a cisgender girl of color, love making messes together. Although Max doesn’t like getting into trouble, Teresa thinks trouble is part of the fun. When their class takes an overnight field trip to a farm, unexpected mischief awaits them after dark in the stinky, muddy pigpen. This picture book/early reader hybrid captures the playful, innocent spirit of two friends testing the boundaries of the world around them as Teresa’s spontaneity encourages Max outside of his comfort zone. The story centers on the dynamic of their friendship and what they learn on the farm, but readers of previous titles in the series will recognize recurring characters in the background, and both Max’s teacher and his whole class support him when the farmer and square dance instructor misgender him. Lozano depicts racial diversity in Max’s classmates, including students with pink to dark-brown skin and different textures of hair. Lukoff’s representation of a transgender character is refreshingly casual and well rounded. He provides much-needed inclusion for transgender youth in a new-experience story that doesn’t fixate on identity as a point of conflict and goes beyond the coming-out narrative.

A sweet and spunky everyday adventure. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6863-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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