Mark this one "to read." (Picture book. 3-7)

ZORRO GETS AN OUTFIT

Zorro the pug and his canine pal, Mr. Bud, return for a second adventure (Say Hello to Zorro, 2011), this time focusing on Zorro and an unwanted gift of a hooded cape similar to that worn by the masked outlaw.

When Zorro’s owner puts the cape on her dog, the precocious pug hangs his head in embarrassment at being forced to wear an “outfit.” On the way to the dog park, he is teased by the dogs on the corner and by Slim the alley cat, making him feel even worse. The situation improves dramatically with the arrival of Dart, a dashing dog in a striped coat and bandana, who makes wearing an outfit seem cool. The clever story is told with a minimum of text, just a line or two per page, along with dialogue incorporated into the amusing watercolor illustrations. Zorro displays a full range of emotions, from deepest shame to gleeful pride, and Dart’s exuberant personality is quickly conveyed through his bold actions and confident demeanor. (“Hey, cool outfit! Let’s race!”) Anyone who has been forced to wear an unwanted clothing gift or who has felt embarrassed by being different will relate to Zorro’s dilemma. At the dog park or the playground, social standing is a fluid world sensitive to change and the influence of a top dog.

Mark this one "to read." (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3535-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 14, 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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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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