Tales of boy-meets-dog are perennially popular for good reason: they can tug powerfully at the heartstrings. Unfortunately,...



Set in an unnamed tropical nation by the sea, this picture book follows a boy and the dog he’s befriended as they enjoy one of their regular outings to surf at the beach.

Sammy greets the dog who waits faithfully for him to return home from school every day, and the two ride a scooter to the beach, where they surf together until sunset, a routine they have had “for many months.” This particular evening the boy’s mother offers to feed both of them dinner, which startles the boy, who says, “But he’s not our dog.” A refrain throughout the book is that the boy and dog are friends who care for each other, so it is confusing that he would respond in such a way to this turn of events. Visual clues—a tropical jungle inhabited by squirrel monkeys, ocelots, and toucans—point to Central America as the setting. Additionally, all the people shown are brown-haired and brown-skinned like Sammy, but the text does not ground the story in a particular cultural context, losing an opportunity for richness and texture as a result. The story arc is weak, lacking any tension, and the text is flat and stilted.

Tales of boy-meets-dog are perennially popular for good reason: they can tug powerfully at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, there is little here to distinguish this story from the pack. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1435-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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