A genuinely tender and charmingly illustrated story of friendship, empathy, and memory.


A rat lays claim to a girl’s special hat until her pal steps in to help in this picture book.

Good friends Nora and Lenny, armed with allowance money they’ve saved, set out on a cool, breezy day for the movie theater. Lenny is fascinated by the green fedora Nora is wearing and asks to try it on. Before he can return it, the wind whisks it away and out of reach: “the hat whirled and twirled through the air like a top /...out over the river, the wind let it drop.” A river rat grabs the waterborne hat and refuses to give it up, and the kids are surprised when they learn the reason for the refusal. However, the fedora means a lot to Nora—the author’s hint as to the reason why is subtle and touching—and Lenny takes unselfish action to help his friend, kindly negotiating with the cranky rodent for the hat’s return. Veteran children’s author Stevenson’s active, rhyming text tells a tale that’s sweet but never cloying, thanks in part to the inclusion of the comically acerbic rat. Artist Mongodi complements the book’s sentiment and humor with the soft, watercolor resonance of illustrations that are alive with detail, including repeat appearances by a certain sea gull that young readers will discover.

A genuinely tender and charmingly illustrated story of friendship, empathy, and memory.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73482-422-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frog Prince Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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