Young readers should sympathize with the compassionate heroine, and perhaps start to feel empathy for others.

Case Two: Big Bully Holly Howler

From the Splunkunio Splunkey Detective and Peacemaker series

An alien detective and his elephant friends return in this second issue-based adventure for grade schoolers, filled with brightly colored photographs of puppet characters.

Ellie Elephant summons Splunkunio Splunkey, her alien friend who is a detective and peacemaker, because there is trouble at school that she doesn’t know how to handle. She explains that a new student is causing problems: “Big Bully Holly Howler. Nobody likes her!” Holly, a purple hippo, is taller than the other puppets: a long-haired zebra named Zena, Ellie and her friend Eli Elephant, a curly-haired lioness, and a pink hoodie-wearing tiger. Holly’s rude, cutting in line and stealing the basketball at recess. She swipes Ellie’s apple for their teacher, and pushes down Zena to take her wagon. Ellie and Eli rattle off a list of Holly’s wrongs, and young readers are likely to think that it’s clear why Holly doesn’t have any friends: she’s just not nice. But Splunkunio refuses to settle for the easy answer. He asks whether Holly acts badly to everyone, and wants to know whether she spends time with other students. When Ellie insists she must have friends somewhere, Splunkunio says, “Not everyone does. Especially people who act like bullies.” The alien urges the friends to treat Holly considerately, even if they continue to dislike her, then vanishes, assuring them they can handle this crisis on their own. Sure enough, when Ellie reaches out to Holly with kindness, everything changes. While this might not be a strategy that works with every bully, the messages in Ashley’s (Splunkunio Splunkey, 2005) tale that generosity can open doors to healing and that loneliness, rather than meanness, can cause kids to lash out remain welcome steps toward empathy. As Ellie learns to look at the world from another’s perspective, young audiences may follow suit. The author’s quirky photographs will either immediately connect with kids or feel too strange to relate to. The puppets are placed in stiff positions, frequently free-standing, sometimes in repeated poses, in a low-background house and a busy schoolroom.

Young readers should sympathize with the compassionate heroine, and perhaps start to feel empathy for others.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4808-2218-4

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2016

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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