I Yam a Donkey! by Cece Bell (InfoSoup)
This silly little book is a read-aloud gem. A donkey declares on the cover “I yam a donkey!” But unfortunately, he’s speaking to a yam and a rather persnickety one at that. The yam can’t leave the donkey’s odd grammar alone, and tries to correct him, but that quickly devolves into a “Who’s on first” type of exchange where misunderstandings pile up and the silliness does too. When the yam finally manages to explain that he is not a donkey (as the donkey has been misunderstanding) but actually a yam and all of the other characters are also vegetables, the ending takes a deliciously dark turn.
Bell uses impeccable comedic timing to make this picture book work so well. The vaudeville like comedy works perfectly here, playing up the stodgy yam and the enthusiastically confused donkey. The two are divergent personalities and make for a book that is such a strong read aloud that you really can’t read it silently. It begs to be shared and done with exquisitely different and wild voices since it’s written entirely in dialogue.
Bell’s illustrations are large and funny. Again, the two characters are shown as very different and the donkey mistaken the rather wrinkly and orange yam as a donkey is made all the funnier thanks to the illustrations. The final twist is wonderful and will have children who are a little older than preschool enjoying the grammar jokes and the ending together.
Funny, wildly silly and completely satisfying, this picture book will work best with elementary aged children who will get the dark humor as well as the grammar jokes. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Vote for Me by Ben Clanton
This picture-book look at the campaigning process takes young readers through a comical look at politics. The donkey and elephant represent Democrats and Republicans only superficially. They make no claims that match the party platforms at all. Instead, it is about how cute elephant is, whether you will accept candy or peanuts as a bribe for your vote, and lots of grandstanding. Soon the two are completely at odds with one another and slinging actual mud along with their bitter words. The insults they use are harsh but humorous, just right for the picture book crowd. Soon both of them have said things they regret and they agree to get along. But it just might be too late for either of them to win the election!
This book is not an in-depth look at voting or politics. Instead Clanton has created a light-hearted look at arguments and fighting through the lens of an election. Adults will enjoy the clear ties to modern American elections while children will be engaged by the humor.
The illustrations have a great vintage feel with a modern edge. The pages are dappled like old paper that has just begun to mildew. The two characters show lots of emotion throughout the book and it is clearly conveyed by their body language and facial expressions.
A chance to laugh a bit at the cantankerous campaign ahead of us, this book would work for discussions about arguments as well as a light-hearted look at elections. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.
A Donkey Reads by Muriel Mandell, illustrated by Andre Letria
This adaptation of a Turkish folktale features Nasreddin Hoca, a 13th-century teacher, judge and imam whose writings are well known in the Middle East. This is the story of a village in Anatolia that was conquered by the Mongols. The Mongol leader demanded that every family pay tribute, but one family had only a worthless donkey to offer the leader. When the Mongol leader reacts with fury at the tribute, Nasreddin speaks up and tells the him that the donkey is worth something, in fact Nasreddin will teach the donkey to read. Everyone is shocked, but Nasreddin is calm and confident that it will happen. The ending will have reader giggling at the humor and courage of Nasreddin’s solution.
Mandell has adapted this tale with a great feel for storytelling. Her pacing is adept and her wording easy to share aloud. The tale is universal in its appeal, thanks in particular to the humor that pervades it. The end of the book has a page where the story of Nasreddin is shared with the reader. It’s a trickster tale with only a donkey as an animal.
Letria’s art is filled with textures and colors. The pages have backgrounds that are rough with brushstrokes, peeling and colors. They add a feeling of age to the book, giving it a strong organic quality as well. The characters pop on the page, especially Nasreddin with his towering headwear. The illustrations add a great appeal to the story.
A window into another world of folktales that many of us have not experienced, this book offers plenty of humor and an appealing package. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by Planet Esme.