A soft-boiled animal detective story sure to please beginning readers.


From the Mack Rhino, Private Eye series , Vol. 1

It’s up to a rhino private eye to solve a mystery and prevent a cheater from winning the Big Race.

Private eye Mack Rhino and his trusty bird assistant, Redd, are off to buy new furniture (as the rhino has splintered yet another desk chair) when a mysterious phone call offers Mack his 100th case: a mystery concerning shoes. But the harried caller, who dropped clues off at the wrong address, doesn’t give Mack much to go on. Even worse, a jailbreak at the ant farm upstate means some of the usual suspects are back in action—and likely with an ally. Meanwhile, the two favorites for the Big Race are Jackie Rabbit, who wants to donate the prize money to build a playground, and Skunks McGee, under scrutiny for his track record of cheating. Other runners experience pre-race troubles in the form of vanishing shoelaces. Mack must think fast to distract Skunks during the race so that the sabotaged Jackie can win, and then to explain how Skunks did it—the suspected team-up with the Ant Hill Gang. The clues are clear enough for the target audience of emerging readers to solve the mystery themselves (the cast size and subplots made manageable with a cast of characters and glossary), and the puns bring laughs. Black-and-white cartoon illustrations tend to highlight slapstick.

A soft-boiled animal detective story sure to please beginning readers. (Mystery. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4113-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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