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

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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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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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