Enjoy the playground scenes, but read another book for a better bullying message.

THE POUT-POUT FISH AND THE BULLY-BULLY SHARK

From the Pout-Pout Fish series

Mr. Fish and his friends find their spines (well, maybe not the octopus or the squid…) when dealing with a shark.

Tummy Tickle Park is the stuff of children’s dreams: swings, monkey bars, a phenomenal slide—and one mean bully of a shark. This meanie repeatedly tells the friends to scram, though strangely, no reason is given or shown as to why he wants the park to himself. The fish don’t leave, instead just flattening themselves to the ocean floor or hiding. “Shark acted badly. / Being mean is wrong. / But I’m just one fish! / Am I really that strong?” Mr. Fish wonders. After the third pass from the shark (and iteration of Mr. Fish’s lament), Mr. Fish finds his strength, especially with his friends swimming beside him. The bullying magically stops when Mr. Fish uses his words (“Bully isn’t who you are, / But it is what you have done”) and demands respect. Facilely, the final scenes show Shark studying etiquette and then joining the fun. While repetition, especially in a rhyming book like this one, can reinforce a book’s message and give listeners an active role in chiming in on the refrains, this one pushes the idea too far, repeating large sections of three different stanzas throughout. Hanna’s artwork is full of humorous details that will keep kids poring over the pages, but the scared expressions on the creatures are a bit forced.

Enjoy the playground scenes, but read another book for a better bullying message. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30402-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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