A delicate story full of humor and friendship.

BEAR WANTS TO SING

From the author-illustrator duo of the effervescent King Mouse (2019) comes another sparkling whimsy.

Portrayed in the same delicate brown-and-white graphite illustrative style, the troupe of delightfully expressive animals—fox, bear, mouse, crow, snake, and tortoise—returns. This time, it’s the bear who has the featured spot. The story opens wordlessly: A double-page spread shows a human child pedaling a tricycle cart in a forest, but the musical instruments the child has been transporting have bounced out. The page turn shows the bear discovering the ukulele. He plinks it and tells the mouse that he wants to sing a song. “I’m all ears,” the mouse replies. But before he can start, the crow flies in, discovering the tambourine. She grabs it and bursts into a clever song. “That is a good song,” the bear admits, preparing to sing his own. But he is interrupted by the snake, who, finding the drum, bursts into song. And so on. The bear finally gets to sing his song, but the polite, tepid response of the others hurts his feelings, sending him off on his own. The mouse follows and gently eases the bear’s wounded pride. The evocative illustrations, skillfully portraying the emotive faces and gestures of the anthropomorphic animals, paired with the humorous (the read-aloud will be lots of fun) and compassionate narrative harkens comfortingly to a softer, gentler world. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A delicate story full of humor and friendship. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6803-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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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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