A heartwarming call and response.

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GRACE FOR GUS

Based on a short film by Bliss’ son, Alexander, this nearly wordless graphic novel follows a seemingly quiet second-grader through an eventful 24 hours.

The narrative opens in Grace’s diverse classroom, where her teacher, a black man, reminds students about contributing to the “Buddy Fund” to purchase a companion for Gus, the guinea pig. The light-skinned protagonist sports a black pageboy and wears round glasses; they are opaque except when she greets Gus, at which point a double-page–spread close-up shows the affectionate creature reflected in her lenses. After dinner with her two dads (both pale-skinned), Grace grabs her violin case and sneaks out her bedroom window, the Manhattan skyline visible in the distance. The multitalented heroine busks for tips in the subway station, draws caricatures on Fifth Avenue, and performs pole gymnastics on the train home. Children and adults will enjoy perusing the sequential panels, designed in various sizes to control the pace. There is plenty to discover and chuckle over, from cartoon and literary characters (Charlie Brown, Nancy, Tintin) and cultural icons (Vincent van Gogh, Alfred Hitchcock, Donald Trump, Patti Smith) to physical comedy, humorous book titles, and clever signs (“Rump Tower”). Dramatic diagonals, beautiful contrasts in lighting, and a joyful vibrancy pervade the scenes drawn in ink by Bliss and digitally colored by Young. There is much rejoicing at the overflowing classroom coffers—and the goal for Gus is realized.

A heartwarming call and response. (Graphic fiction. 5-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-264410-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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THE ONE AND ONLY BOB

Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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