A sweet bedtime book with some significant gaps.



A conversation about bear folk—creatures half-human and half-bear—takes place between a little girl and her father.

Ursula, wearing a nightgown and cuddling a teddy bear, sits with her father in an oversized chair. When she asks Daddy to tell her about the bear folk, he begins with the myth of how today’s bears descended from “Numitorum, the Great Bear of the Northern Sky.” The faded wallpaper behind the pair blurs into the next page’s star-studded sky, with gentle-looking polar bears moving along a path “woven from sunrays and moonbeams.” An apparently nightly ritual has begun. Every page turn brings text with a deft balance of exciting, often funny ideas and lulling rhythms, as readers learn that bear folk are still in the world today; they continue to live “extraordinary lives” until the Great Bear calls them back. The art, done in a muted, full-color palette, with graceful lines and gentle watercolors, is well-matched in tone. The pages are full of sweet-faced children, adults, and bears—implying that bear folk morph easily between their identities. Though Ursula and Daddy present white, other contemporary bear folk appear to be of many races. Friendships, a life well-lived, ecology, mortality—all are touched upon lightly as the child (whose name means “little bear,” of course) drifts into sleep. Disappointingly, the text—unlike the author's own website—gives no source for the tale the father tells: an elaboration of a core story from the Khanty people of Siberia; nor does the artwork hint of it, instead dressing early bear people in attire reminiscent of Native American stereotypes.

A sweet bedtime book with some significant gaps. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78250-476-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Floris

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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Daddy-and-child dog lovers can try some of these canine ways of expressing affection.


Puppies celebrate the many ways their dads are awesome.

“Daddies are playful. / They swing you around. // You ride on their shoulders / or hang upside down.” The first spread pictures a scruffy pup, mouth clamped on its dad’s tail, hanging. The second features a long dachshund, his four pups using the large expanse of his back as a jungle gym or resting spot. The husky dad is labeled as daring, brave, and strong, while the hound takes his pup on adventures (digging and hiding under a bush). Other dog dads give kisses and tickles, tell bedtime stories and help count sheep (a stuffed toy), and help their pups grow (challenging them with stairs and carrying them when the going gets tough). Lovšin creatively interprets some of the text that applies well to kids but not so well to canines: dad and pup at each end of a long stick held in their mouths is the dog equivalent of holding hands. Though many dog breeds will be familiar, some are just mutts, though all are shown caring for and enjoying the company of their offspring. White backgrounds keep the focus on the dogs.

Daddy-and-child dog lovers can try some of these canine ways of expressing affection. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-452-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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