It’s mildly diverting, but there are a host of more compelling explorations of what it takes to be friends.

READ REVIEW

CAN CAT AND BIRD BE FRIENDS?

A dialogue between predator and prey upends the expected outcome of their encounter given their positions within the food chain.

Cat is ready to eat Bird, but the quick-thinking, diminutive creature has the sense to ask why. When the feline does not have a well-reasoned response, Bird suggests they become friends and sets out to show the surprised listener where to find the best box (for playing), the highest branch, and the most desirable car to hide under. Just as Cat is considering the possibilities, Bird raises reverse suitability questions. They finally decide to give it a go—until they realize they have nothing in common. Uncluttered, digital compositions are rendered in black (the cat) and white (the bird) on a taupe background; the type colors correspond to the respective characters, so there is no need for quotation marks or framing explanations. The caricatures are formed from stylized shapes with a limited range of expressions: The feline is essentially a rectangle topped with two curved, triangular ears, while the bird is a small white circle with wings, tail feathers, and thin legs. At the conclusion, the two discover that they both enjoy painting, so the palette expands as they render each other against a paint-splotched background.

It’s mildly diverting, but there are a host of more compelling explorations of what it takes to be friends. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-286593-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Aims high but just doesn’t get there.

LITTLE FOX AND THE WILD IMAGINATION

Beware the imagination that cannot be contained.

When Poppa Fox comes to pick his son up after school he finds Little Fox a complete grump. Happily, Poppa Fox knows just the way to perk up his kiddo. One minute they’re pretending to be race cars, the next they’re dinos on the bus, and then later they’re blasting off to outer space to grab some ice cream. Unfortunately, all that sugar before dinner means that Little Fox’s imagination is now primed to go haywire. Now he’s a robo squid destroying a broccoli forest (rather than eating his dinner), then a shark devouring his dad, who is driving a mail truck (that is, splashing way too much in the tub). Things calm down by bedtime, but when Poppa Fox tells his son he will pick him up again the next day, Little Fox already has big plans. As books built on the power of imagination go, this story starts out strong but loses steam about the time Little Fox loses his focus. Santat’s art does more than its fair share of the heavy lifting, particularly when Little Fox’s imagination is supposed to go off the rails. Madcap adventure never looked this fun. Yet the book can’t quite nail the landing, shifting tone from one page turn to the next, leaving readers ultimately unsatisfied. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 33.8% of actual size.)

Aims high but just doesn’t get there. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21250-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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