I Yam a Donkey!


  • I Yam a Donkey!
  • written and illustrated by Cece Bell
  • published by Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (2015)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

A children’s picture book whose entire reason for being is to make bad grammar jokes? Don’t mind if I do. Written and illustrated by Cece Bell? Oh my goodness, YES!

Bell is perhaps best known for the graphic novel El Deafo, for which she won the Newbery Honor and then the even greater honor of being part of our Questions from a Kid series. However, her background is more heavily focused on picture books…and I Yam a Donkey! is the latest and greatest.

The book centers on a “Who’s on First?” style dialogue between a donkey and a yam…which is where all great works of literature ultimately begin. The yam, being a stickler for correct grammar and pronunciation, can’t help but correct the slightly dim-witted donkey.

Photo Sep 03, 2 52 30 PM

Needless to say, the yam’s efforts are something less than successful.

Beyond the amazing grammar-heavy plot (over which the editor in me goes gaga), I Yam a Donkey! is incredibly fun to read aloud. The arrogant/academic yam and the dopey donkey are some of the best voices in my repertoire. Plus, I do a mean “hee-haw” that comes in really useful several times during the book.

There is a moral at the end of this story (that doesn’t necessarily benefit the pedantic yam or show him in the best light), but it might be helpful to instead think of this exchange as a modern-day allegory about social media.

Sound strange? Well, have you ever fallen down the rabbit hole of online comments only to find that the last resort of every losing argument is a swipe at poor grammar or spelling mistakes? It’s when you know there’s nothing left to be said, and neither side is willing to give ground.

In short – don’t be a yam.

But buy this book. It’s adorable.

Photo Sep 03, 2 53 16 PM(Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from HMH. All opinions remain my own.)


Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire, StarWars.com, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.