Delightfully on-brand. Kids will book it to the shelves for this one.

WHO IS THE MYSTERY READER?

From the Unlimited Squirrels series

The Unlimited Squirrels return for a metafictive romp—hooray!

Carrying a copy of the book (yes, this book), one squirrel asks “Who is the MYSTERY READER?” The others respond, one after another: “Let’s. Read. And. Find out!” So begins this sequel to I Lost My Tooth! (2018), a brilliant, 96-page laugh track composed of four stories and three “acorn-y” jokes. In the first story, the squirrels struggle to decode the letters of a stop sign. Thankfully, the heroic Mystery Reader arrives on the scene—complete with mask and underpants—to help them sound out their letters: “Ssssttt… / …OP!” The second story includes a brief history of writing systems (and a web address for further info); the third divulges “Mo Squirrel’s” own writing process. Though narratively all over the place (in a good way), this takes the self-referential torch from We Are in a Book! (2010) and highlights the next step up in reading development. Willems’ high-interest presentation and formula create a familiar, entertaining format that combines fact, fiction, and plenty of squirrels. The text complexity is similar to that found in the Elephant and Piggie books, but there are more color-coded dialogue bubbles per page. Willems also employs “emote-acorns” to highlight characters’ emotions. Readers may never find out who the Mystery Reader is, but, in the process of investigating, they just might sound out their own reading superpowers!

Delightfully on-brand. Kids will book it to the shelves for this one. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04686-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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