Music lovers might appreciate this slight story that ties the creation of a popular classical sonata to a pampered pet, but...


Despite an intriguing premise, Lachenmeyer and Beccia’s collaboration doesn’t quite manage to produce a pleasing composition.

Legend has it that Scarlatti’s "Sonata in G Minor" was inspired by his pet cat, Pulcinella. Lachenmeyer uses this as a jumping-off point and imagines that the fancy feline has a particular interest in (and talent for) composition. Though initially stymied by Scarlatti’s dictum that no one may touch his harpsichord, Pulcinella gets her chance one day when a bold mouse in a bright blue vest pops up and leads both cat and master on a merry chase. When her paws hit the keys, Pulcinella begins to play. Initially captivated, Scarlatti later worries about the impact of her talent on his livelihood and decides that passing his pet on to a friend is the best way to protect himself and other composers. Beccia’s illustrations feature subdued colors, elaborate details and faux crackling to enhance the historical feel. Unfortunately, the stiffness of the figures, though artistically appropriate, creates a sense of distance. Unlikely events, uneven pacing, and the unsettling, if ultimately amusing, finale further reduce the already limited appeal.

Music lovers might appreciate this slight story that ties the creation of a popular classical sonata to a pampered pet, but most young listeners will simply be left wondering what poor Pulcinella did to be abandoned by her owner. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5472-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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 nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.


From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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