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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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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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