Good friends neatly show that differences don’t matter.



From the Jasper & Ollie series

Friends who seem to be opposites find common ground.

Lightning-quick, impulsive Jasper, a fox, and his gentle, deliberately paced pal, Ollie, a sloth, head to the pool—or, rather, overbearing Jasper prevails on him to go. Jasper races ahead, oblivious that Ollie hasn’t yet left the house. When Jasper arrives and fails to see Ollie, the fox is convinced Ollie’s already there and sets out on a breakneck, madcap search to find him. In the end, the friends catch up with each other and make new plans. The story is thin and unoriginal, and some youngsters may wonder why, given that these guys are besties, Jasper is unaware of their speed differences and that Ollie couldn’t have gotten to the pool first. However, the quirky, comically energetic illustrations are the real draw and should elicit giggles. At the outset, a spread divided into three horizontal strips that include dashed lines traces Jasper’s frenzied scramble to win the race-that-never-was. Numerous subsequent spreads set at the pool are split horizontally so that the larger, upper portions depict Jasper’s frantic pursuit, while contrasting, comic-strip–like lower segments show Ollie leisurely ambling toward the pool, making stops on the way. Visual and tactile learners will savor the dashed lines incorporated into those illustrations of Jasper, too, enabling them to trace his breathlessly overwrought search as he recklessly wreaks havoc everywhere.

Good friends neatly show that differences don’t matter. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-645214

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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