Understated, unsentimental, and gently done.

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ALWAYS REMEMBER

When Old Turtle dies, his friends remember.

The text is in white, dropped-out letters on dark and glowing full-bleed backgrounds, which take place in the waters of the sea. The animals are only slightly anthropomorphized visually, but their thoughts and emotions are very human. The word “death” is never used, but the story opens with Old Turtle (probably not the same Old Turtle as Douglas Wood’s) on his last day, when he “swam his last swim and took his last breath.” The other turtles remember how he taught them to swim; the sea otters remember how he loved to play and laugh; a starfish and a manatee remember how Old Turtle rescued them from danger. After each glimpse at an animal or animal community that Old Turtle touched, the refrain emphasizes they will always remember. The final page sums it up: “he made his world a better place. / When he was done, the ocean took him back.” Without mentioning a deity or religion, the text discusses how people remember those who have died and how their lives go on beyond them.

Understated, unsentimental, and gently done. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16809-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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Lit with sweetness.

SHARE SOME KINDNESS, BRING SOME LIGHT

Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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