A sweet story about connectedness and a willingness to believe in these modern times.

CAN ONE BALLOON MAKE AN ELEPHANT FLY?

It’s a mom-and-son trip to the zoo, but mom’s preoccupation with her cellphone makes for a lonely time until being present becomes a priority—and then magic occurs.

It all begins with the titular question: “Can one balloon make an elephant fly?” Mom, never looking up from her phone, answers in the negative. Her son continues his line of questioning, with unchanging results. Dejected, he sadly slumps down. When his mother finally looks up, she understands and fully engages. Together as they walk, they tie balloons to test his theories, hers to animal miniatures, his to live animals. When they reach the path’s end, she releases the toys and offers a celebratory hug, while the live animals also slowly rise across the city. Simple, stylized charcoal illustrations are deftly executed, and Newman cleverly uses repetition to highlight the characters’ emotional journeys. The oft-used map of the zoo shows the black mother and son on various stages of the path in expressive poses. Unfortunately, narrative clarity is sometimes hampered due to the stylization of the drawings. There’s also more of a grittiness or heaviness to the drawings than in Newman's previous works. Those quibbles aside, this is one of the first books to so accurately portray what parental cellphone use may look like to a child and how it can affect parent/child relationships.

A sweet story about connectedness and a willingness to believe in these modern times. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-5215-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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