A well-meaning children’s book with a gentle message.



A menagerie of animals, ostracized for being different, form their own friendship club in this picture book.

Zoey is a zebra with green-and-black stripes, and Alexis is a one-armed monkey, each rejected by their respective peers for their differences. They inaugurate “The Weird Animal Club” when they meet and have so much fun together that they don’t “feel lonely or sad anymore.” The club grows when other forlorn animals come along. Among these are a hedgehog with one quill, a turtle with no shell, a two-legged crocodile, a lioness with a mane, and an ostrich with teeth. Knott-Craig (Bedtime Dinosaur Stories for Kids, 2017, etc.), a pediatric cardiac surgeon, writes that this tale was inspired by stories he would tell to his young daughter, who walked differently than other kids. In easy-to-follow prose, the author ends each encounter with an uplifting image of new friends playing. In the end, the book offers a simple message of self-acceptance. Goodway’s (Do You Dare?, 2018, etc.) full-page cartoon drawings of colorful creatures, alternating with brief text, reflect the overall approach of easy reassurance. One discordant note, though, is the explanation that Alexis has just one arm because “an alligator bit off the other one,” which may engender uneasiness when a toothy crocodile later joins the club.

A well-meaning children’s book with a gentle message.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4808-5233-4

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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 reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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