Despite its good intentions, readers may find Bill’s message of individuality and acceptance lost in the catalogue of...

BILL THE FISH

An interactive and funky text transmits the message that it’s OK to just be yourself.

Eager to prove he’s not just another fish in the sea, Bill the Fish likes to say that he is “happy being me” and begins by highlighting his quirky habits, like eating breakfast for dinner and enjoying painting with his snail friend, Fred. Bill’s habits and characteristics are then contrasted with a motley crew of his fellow sea creatures, which range from a prawn with a beard to a stylish jellyfish called Kelly. The text features an easy-to-follow narrator whose clipped British accent adds to the silliness of the short and simple rhyming text. Unfortunately for those who chose to follow along with the printed text or read to themselves, the type used presents a confusing and inconsistent mix of upper- and lower-case letters. Interactive elements include zany sound effects (some of which make sense, while others don't), animated characters that are activated by tapping and a few characters that can be “dressed — up” by dragging and dropping elements like hats and beards. Bright, colorful painted illustrations pair well with the text, but renditions of the characters vary in quality, providing a sense of inconsistency that can be distracting.

Despite its good intentions, readers may find Bill’s message of individuality and acceptance lost in the catalogue of characteristics. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Interact Media

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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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 NAME JAR

Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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