A delightful tale that is likely to be a perennial first at storytime.


A collage of new experiences right from the first of the year.

A young girl with beige skin and straight, brown hair wakes up to the first day of the new year. Thus follows a parade of the year’s firsts—waffles, new umbrella, snowfall, fight with her brother (a recurring theme that compounds exponentially as the year goes on), and more. Klein’s simple, understated text effectively and poignantly paints a world of hilarity mixed with drama (“First crush”; “First missed bus”; “Second lost umbrella”). Shown in both vignettes and full-page art, Leng’s soft watercolor palette is punctuated by the characters’ evocative expressions that add to the emotional depth of the book. While books about the seasons are a familiar sight on shelves, this fresh twist offers young readers a glimpse of important moments in a child’s year—moments that add up to a wealth of experience and anticipation of firsts still to come. At times, the “first” motif slips slightly. These experiences are meant to occur within one year, so readers may wonder at “First giving” and “First getting” at the end of the year in winter (no birthdays?); or, for that matter, more than one mask (“First new mask”) at Halloween. However these are minor quibbles in an otherwise satisfying read. The endpapers are worth poring over, done in a scrapbook style. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A delightful tale that is likely to be a perennial first at storytime. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4208-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Hee haw.

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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 sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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