It’s a fine message, but it lacks a certain pizzazz.


Can a pig and a bug become friends, or will the matter of size get in their way?

Pig’s nose has never squeaked before, but one morning, it does nothing but. It squeaks when he eats, when he feeds the pigeons and when he takes a bath. He can’t find an answer in the big medical book, so he inspects his snout himself. What he finds is a squeaky bug who seems to want to be friends. Pig’s agreeable. He gets out his tandem bicycle, but when they ride, he feels he does most of the work. Bug makes Pig a cake to apologize—but Pig eats it in one bite without even remarking on the decorations. Their vastly different sizes get in the way of everything they try to do, so they go their separate ways….Then Pig sees an ad for a movie and realizes there are a ton of things the two can do together. They enjoy the movie, a museum, the aquarium and the zoo. There are still things they don’t enjoy doing together (like playing catch), but mostly they don’t even notice the difference in their sizes any more. South African author-illustrator Latimer isn’t quite as successful here as in Lion vs. Rabbit (2013) and other previous, slightly skewed outings. Here the absurdity may induce a smile—but not a laugh.

It’s a fine message, but it lacks a certain pizzazz. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-56145-797-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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