The befuddling imagery will appeal mostly to aspiring cubists.

PENPALS FOREVER

Here’s a little-known fact: Elephants and mice look exactly alike.

Annabel and Freddy are both gray, and they both have big ears and big noses, so they decide instantly to become pen pals even though—because mice are smaller than elephants—Freddy can stand comfortably inside the envelope from one of Annabel’s letters and Annabel must use a microscope to read Freddy’s. The artwork doesn’t entirely support the belief that they look identical. But none of the characters in this picture book looks like any real animal. Freddy, with his tall, stylized ears, is shaped like a pair of scissors. Another mouse has a bowl-shaped head and freckles, making it look rather like a colander. Distractingly, almost every corner of every page is crammed with detail, including many commercial products put to use as mouse furniture. The layout is so haphazard that readers may have no idea where to look. Fortunately, the story is simple enough that it sometimes resembles a fable, like a reverse “Town Mouse, Country Mouse”: Annabel and Freddy visit each other’s neighborhoods (in South Africa and the U.K., respectively) and make them better. Annabel, for example, uses her trunk to vacuum up a nasty gang of rodents and send them flying. The pictures are less traditional. Some characters appear to have both eyes on the same side of their face. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 87.6% of actual size.)

The befuddling imagery will appeal mostly to aspiring cubists. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-908714-71-8

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Cicada Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.

WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A MOM

All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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