Invaluable in this moment and beyond.

READ REVIEW

LOOKING FOR SMILE

A tenderhearted, life-affirming exploration of the depressive cycle through simple language and a rich visual vocabulary.

Bear and Smile seem inseparable. They do everything together: wake, munch, roam floral fields and wooded wilderness, plunge into waterfalls, and slurp golden gobs of honey. Suffused with a solar glow, vibrant illustrations undergirded by the inimitable texture of Arches paper initially exude the most wonderful warmth. All is clearly well—but, as the world has a habit of reminding us, great difficulties sometimes arrive abruptly. One morning—without warning, without reason—Bear finds himself alone. Smile is nowhere to be found. Amid Bear’s gloomy landscape, a few objects retain their true colors, but the rest of the world is subsumed by a deep blue malaise. Rabbit notices something is amiss and suggests Bear seek Smile in his favorite places; Bear searches everywhere, to no avail. Bear slurps a pawful of honey as a last resort; still, Smile doesn’t return. As hope fades, Bird swoops in and asks what’s wrong. Bear shares his sorrow, and Bird sits alongside him. They share the comfortable silence of confidants—until Bird begins to sing, softly at first, then louder as Bear hums in harmony. As they fill the forest with song, something stirs deep within Bear. As it rises, the world slowly shifts. Color imbues the page. Life irrupts anew. At long last, Smile appears on Bear’s face. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 57% of actual size.)

Invaluable in this moment and beyond. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6619-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...

DOG DAYS

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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