An endearing, visually rib-tickling ode to best friends.

OLLIE AND AUGUSTUS

As Ollie starts school, he worries his dog, Augustus, will miss him.

Even though Ollie’s “small—like a pickling jar or a shoebox,” and Augustus is “big—like a fridge or a table,” these best friends do “most things together.” Ollie’s favorite activity is digging while Augustus likes stick collecting. Sometimes they annoy and irritate each other, but if they get mad, they make up in time for lunch. Poised to start school, Ollie fears Augustus will be lonely and advertises for a friend for Augustus, emphasizing everything Augustus likes to do. Next day, canine candidates line up to interview for the position. After a series of disappointing play dates, none of the applicants understand Augustus’ “favorite things,” nor does he understand theirs. Although Ollie spends the first day of school sad and worrying about Augustus, he’s in for a surprise. Delicate earth-toned illustrations rely on fine, sketchy outlines, pale color highlights, and all-white backgrounds to humorously flesh out the spare text. Fragile, diminutive Ollie appears an unlikely match for his massive canine buddy, but amusing vignettes reveal these pals engrossed in painting, bike riding, people watching, dressing up, tree climbing, and, of course, digging and stick collecting.

An endearing, visually rib-tickling ode to best friends. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0967-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

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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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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