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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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