BARNABY

A bird leaves home in a fit of pique.

Barnaby, a blue budgie, lives with a White lady who feeds him “sunflower seeds and pieces of sweet mango.” For a different bird, this might be a gilded-cage existence (literally): “His cage was gold and shaped like a gumdrop castle. He had a swing and a ring, a rope to chew, and bells that jingle-jangled.” But far from feeling confined, Barnaby genuinely loves the cozy home with patched-up furniture and the human whose neck he nuzzles during his free fly-around time. Everything’s copacetic until the lady dares to bring home a second bird. “Barnaby ignore[s] the little yellow puff,” throws tantrums, and storms out the open window into the wild blue yonder. His time in nature with a flock of strangers mellows his snobbery and sense of entitlement; when he returns, he mirrors a kindness for the yellow bird that an outdoor bird modeled for him. Curtis mentions no emotions, instead using poetic figures of speech: Doubt and isolation are “silence heavy on [Barnaby’s] wings”; when Barnaby finally accepts the new family member, the yellow bird’s feathers look “soft as summer wind.” Reich’s gouache paintings with colored pencil are honey-toned and golden except the scene of Barnaby’s furious departure, which is awash with uneasy green. The lady’s off-center mouth shows a wry and solid wisdom while a crucial berry is unforgettably red and specific.

Full of feeling. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-370-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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