An artful plea for emotional acceptance. (Picture book. 5-8)

WHEN MOLLY DREW DOGS

Imaginations run quite literally wild for a young girl.

A measured, soft voice narrates, “On the night before the first day of school, a pack of stray dogs moved into Molly Akita’s head. / They were friendly. But a bit wild.” Molly finds the only way to manage her emotions, manifested as the rowdy pups that swirl around her room, is to draw them. Quickly the pack of canines run beyond her sketchbook onto moving boxes at home as well as onto the chalkboard and work at school. Her teacher, Ms. Shepherd, gets impatient, “but Molly’s dogs were stubborn. They needed to run free.” After receiving a teacher’s note, Molly’s grandmother hires a tutor, but he too declares, “No dogs allowed!” Grasping for control and acceptance, Molly runs, trailed by her sketched dogs and getting lost in the rain, and takes shelter in a shed. Pulling out her chalk, she draws coats for her companions. They in turn protect and comfort her when she grows fearful. Molly is Japanese, as denoted by her surname and dark hair and eyes. Xu uses darkly hued colored pencils that bring a textured somber tone to the story. In a twist, when Ms. Shepherd finds Molly, she tells her a robber was scared off in the area by coat-wearing dogs. With this validation, Kerbel deftly crafts a gentle argument for more empathy for others and yourself.

An artful plea for emotional acceptance. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77147-338-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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

CLAYMATES

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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