From Captain Quiet’s clever belt buckle (“SH”) to Rupert’s gaping tonsil shots, Higgins has once again drawn up a winner.

BE QUIET!

Having failed in the hospitality business due to a rude and surly bear (Hotel Bruce, 2016), mice Rupert, Nibbs, and Thistle decide to go into publishing.

Rupert decides to star in his very own wordless book: the emphasis is on “wordless”…as in no words whatsoever. Nibbs and Thistle agree—loudly and vociferously. Speech bubbles proliferate at quantum speed despite Rupert’s creative direction: “Quiet, you!” Instead of collaborating on a “visually stimulating” book, the head mouse finds himself besieged by a thicket of words (854, more or less). Cameo appearances by unibrowed Bruce and one of his goslings from the Mother Bruce books lend a gratifying sense of continuity to this wacky sylvan universe. Higgins’ visual puns and artistic high jinks power the escalating absurdity of Rupert’s blithely obtuse sidekicks. The hilariously smart dialogue reinforces the sight gags scattered throughout. The helpful observation that “we need to have strong illustrations” is followed by an image of the two literal-minded mice flexing muscle-bound body parts; Captain Quiet, Thistle and Nibbs’ proposed “Vocabulary Vigilante,” is a champion word-fighter and proponent of onomatopoeia (“POW / BLAM / KABOOM”)—and not at all what the creative director had envisioned.

From Captain Quiet’s clever belt buckle (“SH”) to Rupert’s gaping tonsil shots, Higgins has once again drawn up a winner. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3162-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL

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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