A periwinkle-blue blob of a bear named Donut demands a story, while an offstage speaker encourages him to be on his way. "Once there was a bear named Donut. And he burped. The end," the unmotivated storyteller says in typewriter-style print on a drab goldenrod background. Donut excuses himself for the burp, then protests the story's brevity ("One burp? No way") in hand-lettered, emotional voice balloons. He pretends to exit, walking off the far right margin, only to peek back into the page space, wearing a green bowler hat and mustache ("Donut! I know it's you!"). Later, he tiptoes into the frame behind a "You Can't See Me" placard. Benton, the mastermind behind the It's Happy Bunny and Dear Dumb Diary series, casts the stubborn Donut in a role similar to that of Mo Willems's back-talking Pigeon. Donut mirrors his intended young audience, begging for a longer story, another story, or the same story one more time ("Yeah! Yeah! Read it again!"). With all the mugging for readers, the book gets to "the end"—the actual final page, that is—without going beyond introductions. Ages 3–5. (Mar.)
A bear named Donut takes center page and burps. That's the end of Benton's (Dear Dumb Diary series) very silly and minimal new picture book. Except not quite. As it turns out, Donut the bear disagrees and proceeds to make a nuisance of himself, arguing the point with the narrator, disappearing and jumping back onto the page, even going so far as to disguise himself. Finally, the narrator is worn down by the bear's perseverance and tells a story featuring a unicorn, a robot, and a talking ice-cream cone. Except not quite. This time, unfortunately, the pages have run out. Cartoonishly funny, if more than a little reminiscent of a certain bus-driving pigeon, Benton's big, goofy bear with the huge, expressive mouth is more than likely to get rooms full of young readers rooting along for more stories. A fast, lightweight confection that will leave the palate as quickly as it arrived, but for that brief moment, it's nothing but an enjoyable treat.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
'Once there was a bear named Donut. And he burped.' The story’s supposed to end there, but Donut isn’t really ready to go home, despite the insistence of the stern narrator, and the bear makes a few desperate attempts to stick around, including donning a mustache and hat and wearing a sign that says 'YOU CAN’T SEE ME.' An exasperated narrator finally concedes and sends the blue bear to the castle of rainbow candy unicorns with a robot and talking ice cream cone, but alas, the pages run out and do indeed put an end to Donut's story--unless, of course, you want to read it again, per Donut’s enthusiastic request. Donut’s kinship to Benton's Happy Bunny franchise is apparent in the bear's crayon-like and rounded outline, crisp pale blue, and emotive mannerisms. The book's design is sharp, with minimal figures against goldenrod pages in the bold, digitally created art. Postmodern, breaking-the-fourth-wall picture books have become an established genre by now, though, and there's not much to this one to distinguish it in a genre that's included stellar works such as Willems' We Are in a Book! (BCCB 10/10) and Gravett's Again! (BCCB 9/13). Additionally, the humor often overly relies on gags like burps rather than the cleverness of the construction. Still, Donut stealthily tip-toeing across the page in red-sneakered feet going 'SNEAK SNEAK' is going to garner giggles, and this would have plenty of possible pairings for a disruptive storytime, especially for audiences who can’t bear a story to end.
K-Gr 2—Riding the recent trend toward metafiction in picture books, Benton introduces readers to a rotund blue bear who is alarmed that the narrator has declared, "The end." after only two pages. Donut is incredulous, defiant, and dejected by turns, conversing with the narrator via speech bubbles. Finally, the narrator agrees to continue the story; however, the next page turn reveals that the book is out of pages. Donut is crestfallen until the narrator offers to read the story again. The use of flat planes of color, heavy outlines, and cheeky characters is reminiscent of the work of Mo Willems and Bob Shea, but the characters here are more static and predictable. The ending prompts readers to start over from the beginning, but the joke already feels over by that point. Humor is subjective, so there are certainly readers for this title, but overall it seems too derivative to attract a large audience. This is a serviceable purchase for large collections, and with Donut grinning toothily on the cover, it will certainly circulate, but libraries that are counting their pennies won't miss out by passing on this one.—Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN
An unimpressive addition to the plethora of metafictive picture books flooding the market. The narrator opens this book by introducing Donut, a blue bear in sneakers. He's rendered in a bold-lined, minimalist style and placed on a plain butter-yellow background. On the next page, after Donut burps, the narrator claims the story is over. At this point, it quickly becomes apparent that Donut and the narrator can communicate (Donut's speech looks to be hand-lettered in dialogue bubbles, distinguishing it from the typeset narration). Donut does not want his story to end, and so begins a tedious back and forth between the two characters as the narrator attempts to convince Donut that the story is indeed over. Donut, in his turn, tries excuses, disguises and a tantrum--none of which is particularly clever--to augment his story, finally achieving success only to be thwarted when the book runs out of pages. The story ends with the narrator suggesting a reread, which Donut joyously encourages, but it may leave readers wondering why they would want to spend even more time with such an uninspired book. This story lacks the cleverness and originality that make a metafictive picture book successful, though it could be useful as a creative-writing prompt with older children. (Picture book. 3-7)