ABIGAIL SPELLS

This winsome tale demonstrates the value of friendship during the trials and travails of life. The announcement of the school spelling bee delights Abigail. With George’s assistance, she earnestly begins preparing for the big day, gleefully spelling out words at every opportunity. However, besieged by stage fright during the contest, Abigail makes a mistake. George’s stalwart companionship and his wise words provide the devastated Abigail the comfort she needs. Alter’s simply told text deftly conveys the genuine affection between the friends and treats Abigail’s disappointment with the gravity it deserves. The enduring message of the inevitability of setbacks and the necessity of gracefully coping—with a little help from friends—will appeal to readers struggling with their own challenges. Heavily pigmented acrylic paintings impart a quaint, old-fashioned feel to the tale, imbuing it with a classic timelessness; the double-page close-up of Abigail’s moment of failure is a portrait of shame and disappointment embodied. Quiet and unassuming, this sympathetic testament to friendship is a great addition to a child’s shelf. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 28, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85617-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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OTIS

From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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