Delightful and heartwarming, this read-aloud performs like a welcoming embrace. Brava, amiko!


Kindness is a universal language.

Kemala, an optimistic, talkative pangolin, has moved to “her new town” and anticipates meeting new friends. Her curiosity and interest in her new environment are tinged with anxiety and ambivalence about joining a new school because of “a language Kemala didn’t know.” With trepidation, humor, and help from anteater classmate Ana, Kemala discovers a connection through puppetry. Meanwhile, her hide thickens as she tackles Esperanto, the “foreign” language used among this assemblage of animal characters drawn from different continents. The focus on a fundamentally global language spoken by creatures from diverse habitats conveys a utopian-yet-accessible vision in which no one is an outsider. In featuring an echidna, a red fox, an owl, a raccoon, a skunk, and a numbat sharing the classroom with a pangolin, for example, while crafting Indonesian-style shadow puppets of other animals (tiger, elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus, and penguin), the illustrations emphasize the power of imaginative role play. With everyone’s exuberant encouragement, Kemala overcomes her shyness and stage fright to find her new voice. A concluding note explains Esperanto and provides translations of the dialogue as well as offering further information on pangolins. Readers with familiarity with Southeast Asia may recognize Kemala’s name as Indonesian or Malaysian.

Delightful and heartwarming, this read-aloud performs like a welcoming embrace. Brava, amiko! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-31046-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Hee haw.

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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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...


Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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