A bit treacly but wistful and charming.

THE BASEBALL PLAYER AND THE WALRUS

A lonely baseball superstar finds a new friend and rethinks his priorities.

He’s talented, popular and very rich, but something is missing that he just can’t name. On a visit to the zoo, he is fascinated by a walrus’ antics. He decides to buy it, but he meets with great resistance from the worried zookeepers. He is so determined to demonstrate his ability to care for the walrus that he completely reconfigures his huge backyard with all the accouterments a walrus could possibly need. He’s ecstatic when the zoo authorities finally agree to let the walrus go. He grooms the walrus, reads him stories and even plays catch. He is so happy that he quits baseball, but eventually he runs out of money and the walrus must go. Of course there’s a happy ending, and the two friends are reunited. It’s not really a baseball story, for the unnamed hero could just as well be a rock star or actor or business mogul. The important part is that he gives it all up for friendship and companionship. Loory builds the tale nicely with sympathetic portrayals of the hero’s loneliness and the walrus’ endearing traits. Young readers will find it all sweetly believable. Latimer’s computer-enhanced cartoons carefully follow the text and add an extra touch to the characters’ emotions. The denouement could come straight out of Field of Dreams, if that film were set in a zoo.

A bit treacly but wistful and charming. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3951-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited.

LET'S DANCE!

Dancing is one of the most universal elements of cultures the world over.

In onomatopoeic, rhyming text, Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children: “Tappity Tap / Fingers Snap,” reads the rhyme on the double-page spread for flamenco; “Jiggity-Jig / Zig-zag-zig” describes Irish step dancing. The ballet pages stereotypically include only children in dresses or tutus, but one of these dancers wears hijab. Overall, children included are racially diverse and vary in gender presentation. Diaz’s illustrations show her background in animated films; her active child dancers generally have the large-eyed sameness of cartoon characters. The endpapers, with shoes and musical instruments, could become a matching game with pages in the book. The dances depicted are described at the end, including kathak from India and kuku from Guinea, West Africa. Unfortunately, these explanations are quite rudimentary. Kathak dancers use their facial expressions extensively in addition to the “movements of their hands and their jingling feet,” as described in the book. Although today kuku is danced at all types of celebrations in several countries, it was once done after fishing, an activity acknowledged in the illustrations but not mentioned in the explanatory text.

The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited. (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63592-142-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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