An unusual refugee story that may open doors for empathy.



In this book, based on a real-life story, Bassel, a young Syrian man, becomes a refugee because of war and escapes his city for Europe, leaving his beloved dog, Stella, behind.

When gunfire wakes Bassel and Stella up at night, he tells her it is OK but knows that’s not true. Soon, living in his war-torn country is no longer safe, and, like millions of others, he must leave. Saying goodbye to family, friends, and Stella, he makes the arduous journey to Europe—on foot and by rubber dinghy, spending months confined in a refugee camp. A Belgian family opens their arms to him, and his host and friends from back home help him reunite with Stella. The dog’s journey will not be easy either, but the story ends on a happy and hopeful note. Both she and Bassel will have two lives now, one “lost” and a new one “found.” Expressive, softly stylized illustrations pay great attention to Bassel’s and Stella’s emotions throughout the book, and notes by the Syrian co-author and illustrator share details about their lives and the war. An afterword sheds more light on refugees around the world and includes a call to action to support them. It also provides further information about the Syrian conflict but unfortunately contains significant errors: saying that Turkey supports Assad and calling the Kurds (Syria’s largest ethnic minority) a rebel group; moreover it frames the conflict as one waged against Assad by rebel groups with different agendas and elides the role of civilian resistance to an authoritarian government. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 38.7% of actual size.)

An unusual refugee story that may open doors for empathy. (Picture book. 5-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0133-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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. 29, 2018

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Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development.


From the McKellar Math series

A child who insists on having MORE of everything gets MORE than she can handle.

Demanding young Moxie Jo is delighted to discover that pushing the button on a stick she finds in the yard doubles anything she points to. Unfortunately, when she points to her puppy, Max, the button gets stuck—and in no time one dog has become two, then four, then eight, then….Readers familiar with the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” or Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona will know how this is going to go, and Masse obliges by filling up succeeding scenes with burgeoning hordes of cute yellow puppies enthusiastically making a shambles of the house. McKellar puts an arithmetical spin on the crisis—“The number of pups exponentially grew: / They each multiplied times a factor of 2!” When clumsy little brother Clark inadvertently intervenes, Moxie Jo is left wiser about her real needs (mostly). An appended section uses lemons to show how exponential doubling quickly leads to really big numbers. Stuart J. Murphy’s Double the Ducks (illustrated by Valeria Petrone, 2002) in the MathStart series explores doubling from a broader perspective and includes more backmatter to encourage further study, but this outing adds some messaging: Moxie Jo’s change of perspective may give children with sharing issues food for thought. She and her family are White; her friends are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-101-93386-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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