Browne deftly shows that emotions can arrive suddenly and, more importantly, leave again without any reason why.



From the Willy the Chimp series

The latest installment of the Willy the Chimp series is an emotional roller coaster.

Browne continues Willy’s adventures in his familiar artistic style, depicting apes dressed in human clothes in detailed, mixed-media paintings. Dapper protagonist Willy plans an outing in the park. He is clothed in a patterned, multicolor vest, green corduroy trousers, and brown oxfords as he cheerfully strolls across the mostly white page. Alas, a cloud is following him. He can’t seem to shake it. Although everyone else at the park is having “great fun,” he—and he alone—is shadowed by this cloud, which hovers directly over his head. Now glum, Willy gives up and goes home, trailed by the cloud. Browne uses palette and composition to convey mood, isolating Willy uncomfortably beneath the cloud and muting colors. The cloud seems to go away and his mood lifts, but it returns, and now Willy is angry—so angry that he yells and shakes his hand at the murky stormy sky: “I’ve had enough!…Go away!” At that moment, the cloud bursts, leaving Willy so relieved and happy that he strikes a pose reminiscent of Gene Kelly in the film Singin’ in the Rain. The theme is conveyed in a way that is developmentally pitch-perfect for young readers who often have big feelings that no one can just fix.

Browne deftly shows that emotions can arrive suddenly and, more importantly, leave again without any reason why. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9498-2

Page Count: 30

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)


A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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