Determination and perseverance—both girl’s and squirrel’s—are celebrated.

GIRL VERSUS SQUIRREL

An enterprising girl meets her match in an even more enterprising squirrel.

Pearl, illustrated with black hair and eyes and beige skin, has just built herself three birdhouses. “One looked like a house. / One looked like a tube. / One looked like a teacup”—because it is a teacup, and it’s the one Pearl is most proud of. While the house-shaped feeder and the tube feeder attract appropriate (and accurately illustrated) birds, the teacup, filled with peanuts, attracts a squirrel—who eats them all. Irritated, Pearl rigs up a taller contraption to foil the squirrel, but the squirrel defeats this easily. Finally, after building a Rube Goldberg–like obstacle course of things Pearl keeps in her “box of useful odds and ends”—which the squirrel navigates with ease—Pearl’s irritation turns to admiration. When she discovers that the squirrel is, in fact, a mama with three kits, the friendship is sealed. Barrett’s high-energy narrative is filled with action verbs that give it a pleasingly crisp forward movement while Andriani’s illustrations are just as pleasingly varied in their presentation and keep up perfectly with the text. (Of note is the sequence in which nine separate iterations of the squirrel navigate each element of the ninja course.) This can-do story is delivered with great good humor, and it has the added benefit of ending with empathy rather than outright victory. Backmatter delivers more factual information about squirrels.

Determination and perseverance—both girl’s and squirrel’s—are celebrated. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4251-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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