Déjà vu aside, it’s a pleasant-enough outing.

HONEY & LEON TAKE THE HIGH ROAD

From the Honey & Leon series

Two New York City dogs shadow their dads on another trip.

Big, fluffy Honey and small, chipper Leon protect their dads pretty handily at home in the East Village. When they hear the all-too-familiar sound of squeaking luggage wheels, they spring into action. Honey creates a distraction (by, um, piddling inside), while Leon checks the tickets online. Their dads are flying to London. The dogs break out their disguises and tail their dads across the pond. (The avuncular-bordering-on-patronizing narrator informs readers that the dads are on to their dogs’ shenanigans but indulge the canine need to protect their humans.) From London to Edinburgh to the island of Barra, Honey and Leon doggedly protect their dads from nonvegan soup and other hazards. There, Honey is distracted by a lovely collie named Coll, and so it falls to Leon to single-pawedly save everyone in the dense Scottish fog by barking in a brogue as he follows the scent of gluten-free pastry. The family wings it home, and the pups barely make it in time to greet their dads as if the pooches had never left the city. Cumming and Shaffer team up again to tell nearly the same story as The Adventures of Honey & Leon (2017). This is as charming and self-indulgent, but it offers little new aside from the setting (Scotsman Cumming’s home).

Déjà vu aside, it’s a pleasant-enough outing. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55800-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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