Well-intended—but woefully inadequate to its task.



From the I See the Sun… series

The newest in the I See the Sun… series is a paean to American diversity.

During a trip to Mount Rushmore, Stella, a biracial girl with a white mother and Indian-American father, explores how her family differs from others, including: a transracial-transnational adoptive Alabama family with two white moms; a black family from Massachusetts; and a multigenerational, white Iowan family. Stilted, lengthy, first-person narration details her observations and fails in earnest efforts to affirm pluralism. The book presents family trees with inadequately contextualized lineages and later delivers a ham-fisted treatment of Native peoples and history. On the latter note, Stella’s father tells her that “the Lakotas really own the Black Hills where Mt. Rushmore is. The Black Hills are sacred to the tribe, but the United States government won’t allow them to perform their ceremonies there anymore.” This reads as a simplistic aside, since their subsequent trip to the Lakota reservation where she meets a girl named Martha never expands on this cursory commentary about American settler colonialism. The closing, in which Stella’s mother sings “This Land Is Your Land” as a celebration of American diversity, provides a final, resounding note of erasure and insensitivity to Native peoples. The story is followed by backmatter that embraces the fraught term “melting pot” and never acknowledges the tension between American ideals and its history of colonialism and slavery, although it does comment with regret on the rise of nationalism following the 2016 presidential election.

Well-intended—but woefully inadequate to its task. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-935874-36-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Satya House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.


Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.


A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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