cover image I Yam a Donkey!

I Yam a Donkey!

Cece Bell. Clarion, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-544-08720-0

Newbery Honoree Bell (El Deafo) creates a laugh-out-loud dialogue in the tradition of “Who’s on First?” or Lane Smith’s It’s a Book. “I yam a donkey!” a googly-eyed donkey proclaims. A bespectacled yam objects. “What did you say? ‘I yam a donkey?’ The proper way to say that is ‘I am a donkey.’ ” “You is a donkey, too?” the donkey asks. “You is a funny-looking donkey.” The yam tries to educate the donkey, while the donkey demonstrates only hopeless thickheadedness. The appearance of a carrot, a turnip, and some green beans allows the yam to review conjugations of the verb “to be.” The donkey, however, spies a meal. “Oh!” he cries, finally getting it. “You is lunch!” In a linguistic landscape where literally can mean figuratively and flammable and inflammable are interchangeable, Bell’s story celebrates the idea that language changes, and pedants who can’t adapt will be left in the dust (or in a donkey’s belly). The ending sends a message that any child can endorse: “If you is going to be eaten, good grammar don’t matter.” Ages 4–8. Agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (June)