With an open-ended, wordless conclusion inviting predictions and possibilities, this tightly paced narrative soars above its...

I HAVE A BALLOON

Bernstein’s debut featuring an owl holding a balloon begins with a spoiler alert on the jacket flap: “This is NOT a book about sharing.”

It is, however, an honest, humorous depiction of how one might cling to or covet possessions—behaviors that both children and adults will recognize. The story starts simply. Sitting on a branch in the woods, Owl proclaims the titular sentence to a nearby monkey. As the primate offers observations, the owl incorporates the adjectives into longer declarations: “That is a shiny red balloon,” says the monkey. “I have a shiny red balloon,” Owl agrees. Desperate to have the object, Monkey zooms through the pages offering trades, but neither the teddy bear, sunflower, robot, ball, etc., do the trick. Magoon’s digital caricatures provide the emotional content that will elicit identification and laughter. His funky monkey and staid owl are entertaining foils, and the would-be trader’s pratfalls recall Warner Bros. cartoons. It is ultimately a star-studded sock with a hole in it that gives Owl pause. Here there is more text as each character imagines wearing the sock on different body parts and using it for puppet performances. Then it is Owl who turns on the charm to no avail. They are each left with the metaphorical shoe on the other foot, until a raccoon wielding an ice cream cone appears.

With an open-ended, wordless conclusion inviting predictions and possibilities, this tightly paced narrative soars above its message-driven counterparts. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7250-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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