This kind but snarky, winningly honest story about being a square peg is sure to appeal to misfits and queen bees alike.

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SWEETY

A bespectacled naked mole rat stays true to her awkward self.

By human standards, Zuill’s anthropomorphized naked mole rats are all pretty weird-looking: unsettlingly humanlike; pinkish-white but with beady little eyes, pronounced snoots, and vacant smiles. It seems that there are hierarchies even among naked mole rats, however, and Sweety is somewhere toward the bottom. With Coke-bottle glasses and headgear over her buck teeth, Sweety “could be intense”; she loves mycology and interpretive dance, and she has a hard time making friends with the more popular naked mole rats. Refreshingly, this story doesn’t follow a “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” plot, in which deviance is only acceptable if it’s useful to others, nor is anyone particularly unkind to the strange mole-girl. Sweety’s aunt Ruth informs her that “being different was one of the best things about her life, and that if you stayed true to yourself, you’d find your people.” Sweety thinks a little about how to be more popular and considers different attention-getting tricks to find her people, but at the end she decides to “continue to do her favorite things, and be herself.” Hilarious, slightly (and appropriately) off-putting pen-and-ink sketches (with an especially delightful spot of some goth adolescent mole rats) perfectly illustrate Sweety’s uniqueness.

This kind but snarky, winningly honest story about being a square peg is sure to appeal to misfits and queen bees alike. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-58000-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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