Charming, encouraging, and delightful. Go, Nick! (Picture book. 3-8)



In a mouse family of four nearly identical brothers, Nick always seems to be trying to catch up.

When Mommy gives them shirts of different colors so she can tell them apart, Mick, Vick, and Rick have very specific reasons for their color choices. Nick gets the one that’s left over. Nick also likes his brothers’ tasty food selections, but he alone is willing to try a plain green salad. Mick, Vick, and Rick all know what they want to be when they grow up, but Nick is keeping his options open. He rides his bike and runs as fast as he can, lagging behind the others in each activity. Even when they pick flowers for Mommy, he is left with a “small green sprout.” He has been cheerful about most things, but this time he is really disappointed and sad. The next day he finds that his sprout has developed into a beautiful, unusual flower. The father-daughter creative team’s little mouse family is warm and sweet. Nick’s brothers may lead him but they don’t tease him (much), and Mommy is loving, patient, and accepting. She understands that, like the flower, Nick is a late bloomer. The lively acrylic illustrations are rendered in soft, clear colors on a lightly textured background and move speedily across double-page spreads. Treacle and honey are assiduously avoided, leaving gentle reassurance for self-doubting little readers.

Charming, encouraging, and delightful. Go, Nick! (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4169-5506-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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)


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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