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I WON A WHAT?

A whale of a tale.

Move over Clifford the Big Red Dog—here’s a new take on the big-pet story.

As the dark-skinned narrator approaches a booth at a fair, “practical” parents close behind, the child says, “I have to win this goldfish,” because practicality prohibits “anything fluffy. Or shaggy. Or feathery. Or that eats mice.” When the tossed coin lands not in a fishbowl at the booth but in a tiny, glass bowl at the back of the display, the barker proclaims, “You won Nuncio!” (who turns out to be a whale). The child’s parents aren’t happy, but they are “very, very fair” so they agree to bring Nuncio home, “on a trial basis.” At first, they find having a whale in their backyard to be a trial. Even the proud owner is none-too-happy about cleaning out the pool. But then they discover that Nuncio can help them in practical ways—like spraying water from his blowhole to help wash the car, for example—and all’s well that ends well. That the family is of color is never noted in the text, but it’s a welcome, matter-of-fact characterization detail conveyed through illustrations. Throughout, the pictures go along with the story’s absurd premise and augment the humor of the text by employing a flat, cartoon aesthetic and bright colors.

A whale of a tale. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-50993-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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