Engaging, charming, and tender.


Bertram and Alan are good neighbors and “great friends.”

In this British import, brown-skinned, bespectacled Bertram is a tidy minimalist while Alan, a White, wild-haired redhead, prefers a comfortable mess. Bertram acquires Pierre, a cat with a haughty air, to add warmth to his rather stark home. He provides Pierre with both a fancy cat bed and meals in a fine china bowl, but Pierre spurns them—he even refuses to sit on the elegant sofa. In fact, the cat spends most of the time at Alan’s home, where he eats scraps from an old bowl, naps on an old soft coat, and cuddles next to Alan on his beat-up sofa. Understanding how his friend feels about his cat’s defection, Alan urges him to borrow the coat and the bowl. Pierre now spends his days with Bertram, but evenings are still spent with Alan on his sofa. So generous Alan lends Bertram his sofa, and all is well at Bertram’s. But now Alan is uneasy in his changed space. This time it is Bertram who has the generous solution. A wall is demolished, furniture is merged, and the friends join their homes. Smouha writes straightforwardly and empathetically in this tale of a strong friendship between two dissimilar men who respect and care for each other. Text is set within white spaces in Hubbard’s bright, detailed cartoons, which vary among vignettes and single- and double-page spreads. Depicted only in the illustrations and never discussed, race is merely one aspect of the characters’ quirky, eccentric personalities. Readers will cheer the outcome and root for this odd couple’s continued contentment.

Engaging, charming, and tender. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-908714-85-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cicada Books

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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