Save this one for non–animal lovers


A picture book about the difficult life of a pet hamster.

Sweetie Pie is a hamster who, it seems, is doomed to be owned by a series of neglectful children. Originally bought from a pet store, Sweetie Pie is sold down the river, as it were, by a series of child owners who, when the hamster becomes no longer cute or a novelty, hand him off to someone else. Finally he ends up in a school classroom, tended by the children. But even then Sweetie Pie’s troubles are not over. One of the children forgets him on the playground, and snow and darkness fall over the hamster trapped in his cage. Van Allsburg’s illustrations, done in his trademark precise style, evoke a feeling of detachment that matches the oddly unempathetic text. When, the next morning, the careless child rushes to collect Sweetie Pie, all he finds is an empty, unlatched cage. He is contrite, but no one seems to care much—a guinea pig takes Sweetie Pie’s place in the classroom soon enough. The good news is Sweetie Pie was rescued by squirrels and now has a great life with squirrel friends in a tree. The bad news is that Sweetie Pie’s “happy ending” comes with no consequences for all the rotten children in his life and is wildly, even harmfully, unrealistic.

Save this one for non–animal lovers . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-547-31582-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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