Elephant & Piggie sure are a tough act to follow, but readers will more than likely want to squirrel these new friends...


From the Unlimited Squirrels series , Vol. 1

A cast of squirrels investigates a missing tooth in this off-the-wall series opener from Willems.

When lisping Zoom Squirrel reveals that they lost their tooth, the other squirrels work themselves into a frenzy. A tooth? All alone? Oh no! The rodent collective asks for clues and declares it their mission to find Zoom Squirrel’s tooth. As the others’ grand search takes them near and far (albeit in the wrong directions), Zoom Squirrel finds their tooth without help. Or did the tooth find Zoom Squirrel? This reader, a level up in complexity from Elephant & Piggie, offers a similar formula but with a longer page count and a larger cast of cartoony characters. Willems’ signature use of color-coded speech bubbles helps readers recognize speakers amid the increased amount of dialogue. Willems also breaks out of his early-reader mold with the inclusion of backmatter (tooth facts, silly jokes, and a quiz) and a table of contents. While the amusing backmatter effectively blends elements of nonfiction, the slim table of contents comes off as extraneous since the bulk of the story is uninterrupted by chapters. Similarly, Willems’ use of “emote-acorns” to alert readers “when the Squirrels have BIG feelings” is a unique tool for encouraging social-emotional development but questionably effective.

Elephant & Piggie sure are a tough act to follow, but readers will more than likely want to squirrel these new friends away with equal fervor. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02457-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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