Give grumpy Gus and his positive puppy pal another sausage and invite them back for a sequel.

THIS IS GUS

A grumpy basset hound is unhappy with his life until a puppy arrives to cheer him up.

Gus has grouch written all over him. His brow is furrowed, his eyes are glowering, and his posture is stiff and unyielding. He “doesn’t like much of anything,” including walks, sticks, balls, and making friends. He doesn’t even enjoy his own birthday party. Midway through this litany of woes, a perky basset pup shows up as one of the birthday presents. The unnamed puppy is revealed as the first-person narrator of the story, changing the negative focus to a positive one. The appealing pup declares that Gus now likes activities such as bathtime and hide-and-seek, though the looks on Gus’ face don’t match that narrative. The surprising climax involves a huge bowl of sausages, with the gradually thawing Gus saving just one sausage for the hopeful young dog. Comical illustrations use bold shapes and bright colors against uncluttered backgrounds, and sausages decorate the endpapers in an amusing touch. The simple story has a droll, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that will be understood by preschoolers and appreciated by older children as well. This funny tale has wide appeal, from younger children just learning to listen to a real story to beginning readers who can decode the easy, repetitive text.

Give grumpy Gus and his positive puppy pal another sausage and invite them back for a sequel. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09736-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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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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