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

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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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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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