A gentle, positive story set in a world far less scary than that of Pixar’s Nemo.

READ REVIEW

OCTOPUS ALONE

Shy Octopus flees the sea horses who dance into her cozy cave, but the deeper ocean is lonely and a little scary, so she returns to her friends in the lively reef.

Srinivasan follows her debut, Little Owl’s Night (2011), with a similarly striking rendition of the marine world in this no-place-like-home tale. Her story opens with a cast of characters, reef inhabitants, that are identified on the end papers. Readers will be able to point them out as Octopus makes the traditional picture-book journey on pages whose backgrounds range from varying shades of blue and green to the near-black of the ocean depths. With frames, full-page and double-page spreads and even a fold-out starring a whale, the artist varies her images to add interest and show the passage of time. In spite of eyelashes that defy the usual understanding of the differences between mammals and cephalopods and the anthropomorphic plot, this sweet story is relatively accurate in its depiction of octopus behavior and reef ecology. The octopus changes color to blend into her environment several times, squirts ink to hide and escape, and lurks in caves. There are predators and prey, but, appropriately for the intended audience, no one gets eaten.

A gentle, positive story set in a world far less scary than that of Pixar’s Nemo. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-78515-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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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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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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