Hood and Sweet succeed admirably in creating a new twist on an identity story while cleverly introducing Spanish words and...

SPIKE, THE MIXED-UP MONSTER

While Spike, a tiny axolatl salamander, practices being the monster he believes he is, the other animals call him cute and funny because he is small. Will Spike show his true nature? 

Fully adorned with a slithery tail, a spiky crown and stumpy teeth, Spike displays all his scary moves for his neighbors el pato (cinnamon teal duck), el armadillo and el campañol (Mexican vole). Instead of being terrified, they are charmed by this cutie. “You’re almost as adorable as I am!” says el campañol. This book introduces simple Spanish words and names by effortlessly embedding them into the storyline. When the truly terrifying Gila monster arrives on the scene, all the animals cry “¡El monstruo!” and scatter. Spike alone stays to scare the creature off in his own unique way. Vibrant colors and creatures fill the double-spread swamp scenes, which strongly complement the text. Touches of whimsy in the landscape, both unusual and cheery, mimic Spike’s personality. Readers of the endnotes might be surprised to see a photo of a real axolatl, smiling very much like the tiny hero.

Hood and Sweet succeed admirably in creating a new twist on an identity story while cleverly introducing Spanish words and exotic creatures. (endnote, glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0601-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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