BLACK DIAMOND & BLAKE

Black Diamond, a fictional champion racehorse, goes to a prison equine rehabilitation center after a career-ending injury, in this tale inspired by real-life prison programs. A young inmate, Blake, befriends him, and—happily-ever-after—adopts Black Diamond upon his own release. Unfortunately, Blumenthal’s black-or-white attitude stacks the narrative deck: Black Diamond is a champion racehorse, not an ordinary one; a sinister man “with a fat wallet” tries to buy Black Diamond before the rehab program does (why would this be bad?); the prisoners other than Blake treat Black Diamond harshly (so the rehab program is inhumane?); Blake is in prison for stealing money to help his out-of-work father support the family (only prisoners with noble motives are worthwhile?). These extremes manipulate readers’ emotions without presenting a realistic picture of such programs for readers. Overly sentimental third-person narration in Black Diamond’s voice includes such clunky lines as “in a minute that grew heavy with time.” Hyman’s lovely pastels provide a 1950s feel, which seems at odds with the modernity of the rehab programs. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-84003-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more