Song lyrics don’t always make great children’s books, and that’s the case here, but the pictures are so poignant that...

IF NOT FOR YOU

Walker illustrates the 1970 Dylan tune with an adorable parent-child canine pair.

Using minimal backgrounds and props to keep the focus on the relationship, Walker masterfully conveys emotions in his acrylic illustrations. Over three pages, the text reads, “If not for you // Babe, I couldn’t find the door / Couldn’t even see the floor / I’d be sad and blue / If not for you,” while the pictures show a game of hide-and-seek, the parent with paws over eyes, then seeking, and finally joyously finding the pup. Indeed, the parent’s life would not be the same without the little one’s exuberance: waking the older dog up with a trumpet, jumping in rain puddles, catching butterflies, watching the clouds and birds in the sky, and taking imaginary journeys together. And as if those weren’t enough, the final two spreads spell it out: the parent sits forlornly on one swing, the adjacent one empty. A turn of the page reveals parent and child gleefully sailing through the air together with the titular phrase underneath. But while this refrain lends itself very well to the parent-loves-child-so-much genre, the rest of the song’s lyrics don’t always. For instance, “Babe” is not usually an address used with a child.

Song lyrics don’t always make great children’s books, and that’s the case here, but the pictures are so poignant that parents could make up their own words and turn this into something greater than it is. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4881-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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Still, this may be just the ticket for harried moms who want to point out all they do for their kids and get a little help...

HOW TO RAISE A MOM

From the How To... series

Mothers finally get their due from Reagan and Wildish, who instruct readers on how to raise a happy and healthy mom.

A white brother-and-sister pair are readers’ guides, and the day starts with how to wake Mom up: let her sleep in a little, kiss her, and serve breakfast in bed (in Wildish’s humorous digital illustrations, whole fruits—including a pineapple and a lime—a box of popcorn, and juice). The kids ready Mom for the day by dressing her (!) and piling everything necessary at the door. Stuck in a long line at the store? If a surprise treat and acting silly fail, just say, “Thank you so much, Sweet Pea, for being so patient.” The day continues with time for work, outside play, and relaxing, followed by some tips about eating vegetables and bedtime routines. While many of the pages are laugh-out-loud funny, this misses the mark in terms of consistency, sometimes prodding kids to do nice things (breakfast in bed, tidy up for her), sometimes reversing the parent and child roles (the hilarious scene in the store), and other times just showing what moms regularly do anyway (playing outdoors, sitting and chatting with another mom on a “playdate”).

Still, this may be just the ticket for harried moms who want to point out all they do for their kids and get a little help in return—sly fun in other words. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-53829-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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