Mabel has moxie, but she deserves a better story. As Mabel herself might say, “Send for the script doctor, darlings.”...


From the Naughty Mabel series

A pampered French bulldog experiences a sudden decline in her eyesight, affecting her mobility and perceptions of potential threats.

Little Mabel established her opulent lifestyle and divalike demeanor in her previous self-narrated story, Naughty Mabel (2015). In this sequel, Mabel’s eyesight mysteriously goes haywire, and she runs into walls, mistakes a bowl of potpourri for her dogfood dish, and begins to experience double vision. The meandering, overlong text describes how Mabel’s eye problems worsen at night, when she perceives large shapes as monsters about to attack her. On a sleepover with friends, she smashes dinosaur skeletons and, back in her own home, beats a gigantic armchair with her pink baseball bat, leading to a trip to the eye doctor for an exam. (Another dog owner there is a black woman; Mabel’s owners and her next-door neighbor are white.) Mabel tries on different kinds of “very attractive” glasses, but her owners choose contact lenses as “more practical for an active girl.” Mabel’s sassy attitude and over-the-top antics have a slapstick appeal, but several of the jokes in her witty dialogue are way over the heads of young readers, who likely won’t be familiar with potpourri, couscous, Martha Stewart, or black-and-white movies starring Bette Davis. The final gag depends on readers having a fairly sophisticated, well-developed sense of irony—debatable for the younger end of the audience range. Clever, cartoon-style illustrations and a supersized format provide visual heft for Mabel’s narrative but can’t compensate for the weaknesses of the text.

Mabel has moxie, but she deserves a better story. As Mabel herself might say, “Send for the script doctor, darlings.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3024-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development.


From the McKellar Math series

A child who insists on having MORE of everything gets MORE than she can handle.

Demanding young Moxie Jo is delighted to discover that pushing the button on a stick she finds in the yard doubles anything she points to. Unfortunately, when she points to her puppy, Max, the button gets stuck—and in no time one dog has become two, then four, then eight, then….Readers familiar with the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” or Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona will know how this is going to go, and Masse obliges by filling up succeeding scenes with burgeoning hordes of cute yellow puppies enthusiastically making a shambles of the house. McKellar puts an arithmetical spin on the crisis—“The number of pups exponentially grew: / They each multiplied times a factor of 2!” When clumsy little brother Clark inadvertently intervenes, Moxie Jo is left wiser about her real needs (mostly). An appended section uses lemons to show how exponential doubling quickly leads to really big numbers. Stuart J. Murphy’s Double the Ducks (illustrated by Valeria Petrone, 2002) in the MathStart series explores doubling from a broader perspective and includes more backmatter to encourage further study, but this outing adds some messaging: Moxie Jo’s change of perspective may give children with sharing issues food for thought. She and her family are White; her friends are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-101-93386-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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