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

I AM ENOUGH

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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