Positive role models showing boys how to be a whole person are few and far between these days. This marvelous book triumphs...

HOW TO BE A LION

A thoughtful lion decides whether he can be something other than fierce in this picture book.

Leonard is a lion, and while he is aware that the general expectation of lions is to be fierce, he opts not to live up to it. Instead he notices “the grass under his paws,” thinks up poems, and befriends Marianne, a duck. The other lions, stuck on the idea of fierceness, tell Leonard that they’ve heard he’s gentle and makes up poems, but befriending a duck instead of “chomping” her is going “too far!” Leonard and Marianne wander off to their “thinking hill” to mull this over, and they come up with… a poem to share with the “fierce” lions. The nub of the poem (which is simple, profound, and utterly lacking in schmaltz) is, “why don’t you, be you… / and I, will be I.” Beyond this universal sentiment, however, lies a timelier one. Readers will see an alternative male role model in Leonard: a strong-looking lion who thinks for himself, choosing creativity and friendship over superficial toughness. Author/illustrator Vere’s illustrations are sturdy in their rough black outlines and large swaths of muted color, but they’re evocative, too, in Leonard’s expressiveness and the predominantly orange/saffron palette that conjures the atmosphere of an African savanna.

Positive role models showing boys how to be a whole person are few and far between these days. This marvelous book triumphs in that essential job. (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-57805-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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