Suggests a human lesson from a fish fact made familiar by a popular children’s film.


Even someone socially awkward can find a friend.

A habit of stinging keeps lonely Anemone from making friends, but for a clownfish, Anemone is just the right companion. Illustrated by the narrative and summarized on the last page of this tale of anthropomorphized sea creatures are three facts about ocean life: Tides rise and fall; hermit crabs use other creatures’ shells for protection, upgrading as they grow; and clownfish and sea anemones have a symbiotic relationship. (The last fact will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Disney’s Finding Nemo.) Anemone’s social difficulties become evident when three small fish wash into its pool during high tide. They know to stay away from its offers of friendship, but the tide goes out, the pool shrinks, and they can’t help but touch Anemone and be stung. “Why do I always sting everyone?” Anemone wonders. But it turns out that stinging can be helpful. When Clownfish is chased into Anemone’s sheltering tentacles by a threatening octopus, it’s the octopus that gets the sting. McGregor’s illustrations have the appearance of having been done with oil pastels. Anemone is a bright pink. The small fish are striped with shades of turquoise and Day-Glo green. The octopus looms large and gray. Attentive readers will be intrigued by the side story of a hermit crab looking for a new home that is enacted along the sandy edges of the main narrative.

Suggests a human lesson from a fish fact made familiar by a popular children’s film. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-950354-51-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scribble

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Hee haw.

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


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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