A hamster firefighting success story—for readers seeking one.

READ REVIEW

HAMSTERS DON'T FIGHT FIRES!

Can this hamster achieve his lifelong dream?

Hugo is a hamster (one who, as pictured, sits in chairs, reads books, and eats chocolate-chip cookies). While he is “helpful, polite, generous, a great cook, a fast runner, a slow eater, and a fantastic dancer,” he is not “strong, tall, able to sing, or particularly good at bowling.” And he is not, despite a passion for helping others and a lifelong interest in fighting fires, a firefighter. Though it might be difficult, Hugo isn’t too afraid to try—and prove that maybe hamsters do fight fires. Like the many other stories in which animals aspire to do unbelievable things (commonly dance but also jump, fly, or befriend their natural prey), Hugo’s tale aims to inspire children to recognize their strengths and defy expectations. This telling requires a little extra suspension of disbelief, as Root’s text and Olien’s boldly colored digital illustrations feature a good dose of the absurd. Hugo’s friend Scarlett is a snake, and the climactic moment finds Hugo carrying a baby bird of his size (although this is not actually shown in the illustrations, perhaps because it might just be too absurd). Hugo, despite many positive qualities, is not an especially endearing hero, with his bulging eyes and long furry limbs belying an actual hamster’s rotund appeal.

A hamster firefighting success story—for readers seeking one. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245294-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

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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