Mabel’s story may be a hit in the Hamptons, but will it play in Peoria? Maybe not.


From the Naughty Mabel series

A pampered French bulldog named Mabel leads a life of misbehavior in this celebrity vehicle.

Mabel lives in a mansion in the Hamptons with a swimming pool and her own bedroom. She narrates her story with a worldly-wise and wisecracking voice, a sophisticated pooch always looking for something to get up to. Her mischievous antics are creative and entertaining, such as taking a golf cart for a joy ride and adding her own painted details to a huge, expensive portrait. The climax of Mabel’s many misdeeds finds her crashing her owners’ fancy dinner party around the pool. There, she eats too much human food, leading to a doggy digestive gas attack that clears the house. The evening ends with Mabel in bed in between her “parents,” who reassure her of their unconditional love. The concept and illustrations work well together, but the story is long, plodding, and filled with adult-level quips and jokes that will fly over the heads of most children. One of these comments about Mabel’s French ancestry is an old cultural stereotype that doesn’t belong in the 21st century: “Maybe it’s the French in me, but I do not like to bathe. Not one bit.” Digitally produced, cartoon-style illustrations and a supersized format create a larger-than-life aura for Mabel’s debut (a sequel is already in the works), but her story is frantic, not funny.

Mabel’s story may be a hit in the Hamptons, but will it play in Peoria? Maybe not. (Picture book. 4-8) 

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3022-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.


From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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