A paper-thin piece of work, which makes leaving an impression near impossible.

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NANA'S SUMMER SURPRISE

Cousins on either side of the puberty divide find common ground in Nana’s surprise birthday party.

The narrator of this tale is a youngish boy who has to contend with his blossoming cousin Hortense during a stay one summer at the family lakeside cabin. The visit might once have been cause for joy—monkeying around on the tire swing, swimming and building sand castles, picking berries, sharing a room—but that is either inappropriate or off the table, since Hortense is now a young lady (with airs to boot, though that theme is not developed, unless using a blow-dryer sums it up). Hortense doesn’t want to have much to do with the no-name narrator, until out of the blue she says, “I know I haven’t been playing with you as much as you’d hoped. And I’m sorry. But I have an idea.” The idea is to throw Nana a birthday party, which the narrator turns into a surprise party, to everyone’s delight. The story is too glancing to develop much sympathy for any of the characters—“I’m not impressed,” is the narrator’s refrain, along with “gross!”—and the narrator is too young to delve meaningfully into Hortense’s changes. The artwork, on the other hand, is a lovely display of chalk pastel; even if the characters look like Claymation gnomes, the colors look like they are lit from within, giving a fairy-tale quality to the work.

A paper-thin piece of work, which makes leaving an impression near impossible. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-77049-324-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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