Swipe left on this one: It’s no keeper.

BABBIT & JOAN,

A RABBIT AND A PHONE

Can Babbit the rabbit cope with giving his phone, Joan, a break?

Anthropomorphic animals and animate cellphones populate this picture book, which opens with the protagonist, Babbit, observing a strike led by overworked phones. He realizes that his own phone, Joan, “was exhausted! She’d been taking pictures and sending texts for Babbit all day, every day.” Babbit decides to give Joan a break and goes about the day without her while she stays home and rests. His meanderings are filled with discovery since, without Joan there to capture his attention, he observes many things in the natural world that he’d never noticed before. Then he encounters a bird and a bear who are also without their phones (one’s battery ran out, and the other’s was lost). The trio enjoy one another’s company and work together to find their way back to the town without the aid (or interference) of their phones; clearly, they’re all better off because of the break from technology. At book’s end Babbit returns to a rested, happy Joan, and they commit to more alone time for each in the future. The cartoon-style illustrations depict animal characters with egg-shaped torsos and rubbery limbs wandering about a gently Technicolor world. They imply a far younger audience than seems appropriate for the message.

Swipe left on this one: It’s no keeper. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-94-788820-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flyaway Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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