A sweet and sincere primer on how to be a friend.

OUT OF NOWHERE

An insect bravely journeys to keep a fledgling friendship alive in this British import.

A small, horned beetle lives on the ledge of a big rock. A caterpillar arrives “out of nowhere,” and the two become friends. The beetle, who narrates, wakes up one morning to find its new friend gone, unaware that she now hangs just below the ledge in a fresh chrysalis. Grabbing a pair of binoculars, the beetle mistakes some faraway mushrooms for the caterpillar and bravely treks across the forest to find her—only to discover she isn’t there. But then a butterfly arrives, and the beetle eventually recognizes its dear friend. The palette, primarily soft, textured grays, includes pops of red for the caterpillar and mushrooms, and the compositions are clean and uncluttered. The beetle is an endearing protagonist, overcoming fears to find the new friend: “The truth is, sometimes…I don’t feel very strong at all.” There’s also humor in an impromptu song the beetle composes while traveling, all in an attempt to muster up some bravery—not to mention in the visual of the small beetle trekking across the forest with a basket on its back. The beetle’s acceptance of the butterfly is genuinely touching. Her outward appearance—in effect, her identity—may have changed, but “it was my friend all the same.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

A sweet and sincere primer on how to be a friend. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8100-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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