Toby is a pleasing pup, but his story doesn’t stand out from the crowded pack of dog tales.

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TOBY

A timid rescue dog learns to get along with his new owners, a lonely boy and his single dad.

When the unnamed narrator and his father move into a new house together, the boy finds a notice from an animal-rescue agency and asks if he can adopt a dog. At the shelter, the boy chooses Toby, a shy, midsized dog with fluffy, white fur. At first Toby is shy and withdrawn, but he gradually learns to like the boy and play with him. The untrained dog then begins to get in trouble around the house, including chewing the dad’s glasses, leading to the dad’s suggestion that the dog might need to be returned to the shelter. The boy swiftly trains Toby to obey basic commands, and in the conclusion, Toby redeems himself by finding the boy’s missing shoe. While the dog is an appealing character and the bonding of child and canine is heartwarming, Toby’s obedience training is unrealistically quick, and the lack of guidance and participation by the father in the dog’s integration into the family is distressing. Subdued illustrations in pencil and watercolor wash project a melancholy air suited to the somewhat sad little boy, who clearly needs the unquestioning love and companionship of his new pet. The main characters and a neighbor girl are all white, with a dark-skinned mother and daughter shown with their two dogs in a park scene on the final endpapers.

Toby is a pleasing pup, but his story doesn’t stand out from the crowded pack of dog tales. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8093-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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