A picture book that tries and fails to offer a “unique” spin on the tried-and-true odd-couple–friendship formula.



Hugo the Hippo takes pride in being “unique,” which causes tension when his friend Bella (a bird) tries to be just like him.

For reasons that remain unclear throughout the story, Bella persists in her adoration and emulation of Hugo, whose dialogue makes him sound both full of himself and also quite uncaring about her feelings. Happily, his rebuffs don’t seem to affect her, and she doggedly keeps up with his various moves in a complicated water ballet. “Bella, will you stop being a copycat!” he demands. “I am not a copycat,” she responds, expanding rather flatly, “I am a bird.” Then, instead of allowing the two to resolve their conflict alone, Bonwill introduces another hippo-and-bird pair, who show up poolside and say, “You two are amazing synchronized swimmers!” This compliment eases Hugo’s mind, and they celebrate with ice cream. This time Bella takes the lead, with Hugo ordering “exactly the same” flavor she does, though she changes her mind so that they enjoy different scoops. Throughout, cartoonish digital art fails to live up to the promise of endearing line art on the endpapers, and it never adds much to this rather pedestrian tale.

A picture book that tries and fails to offer a “unique” spin on the tried-and-true odd-couple–friendship formula. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8053-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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