Pure fun and a good read-aloud choice.

STUBBY THE FEARLESS SQUID

When Stubby the squid gets a pen pal, he pretends to be something he’s not, and that turns out to be a big mistake!

“Stubby was a scaredy squid.” He’s beyond meek. But when Razor Clam becomes his pen pal, Stubby puffs himself up in his letters. After all, simply changing a few letters, he realizes, changes his character. Instead of “fearful,” he can be “fearless.” Instead of “gutless,” “gutsy.” How will Razor Clam ever know? So, Stubby relates his “rough and tough” adventures with jellyfish, an orca, sea lions, and a bull shark. But then Razor Clam decides to visit, and Stubby feels he’ll be exposed. But just as he confesses, “I’m sorry, but I’m…not really that brave. Umm…I guess I just like to write about being brave,” he gets a chance to be perfectly heroic when an otter sneaks up to grab Razor, and Stubby vanquishes the furry foe—in a fashion, readers will note, that mirrors his fraudulent adventures. It turns out that Razor is not so brave either, and they both agree that it’s better to write about being brave than having to be brave. Conahan’s colorful illustrations feature goggle-eyed protagonists who come to accept who they are. Though small and meek, they are drawn large against a busy ocean seascape.

Pure fun and a good read-aloud choice. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63217-199-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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