This friendship story sticks out.



Rupert the rhino is a bit put off by Levi the tickbird’s enthusiastic attachment to him.

Harrison mines the symbiotic relationship between real rhinos and tickbirds in her humorous story about anthropomorphic animals at school. Rupert is proper, socially awkward, and self-conscious, while silly Levi, the new kid at school, brims with exuberance and confidence. He tags along with (often literally on) an increasingly mortified Rupert, and the natural world informs the story when Rupert is embarrassed by Levi’s loud enjoyment of ticks he plucks from his body in the cafeteria. “Yummy! Tastes like chicken!” Levi jokes in front of an offended hen and a mortified Rupert, who eventually decides “Levi has got to go.” He tries various means of ridding himself of Levi, whose ever generous and loyal responses to various passive-aggressive moves stymie the rhino. Finally, Rupert directly tells Levi to back off, saying “I find your boisterousness a tad loathsome,” and “Your uncouthness is slightly problematic.” Predictably, but nevertheless satisfyingly so, Rupert ends up missing Levi when the bird, hurt and confused, grants the rhino the space he wants. Throughout, the text’s humor is matched by Harrison’s lively illustrations, which excel in visual characterization and provide funny asides to extend the story. The clothed animals are a stitch, both entirely animal and completely human.

This friendship story sticks out. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-18665-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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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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