An uplifting tale of triumph likely to encourage struggling young bicyclists to take off soaring.



A child and a fledgling show off their new skills in this coming-of-age picture book.

It’s Fletcher’s big day: The training wheels are coming off his bike. His light-skinned family has gathered; his parents, aunts, and grandfather have their cameras ready. Nearby, some noisy crows also sound like they are celebrating. When a motorcyclist roars down the street, it almost disrupts the day—and it certainly bothers the crows, who then dive at a neighbor passing too closely beneath their tree. But soon Fletcher is off, and after his father lets go, the boy realizes a small crow is gliding alongside him. “Look at us,” Fletcher calls out. “We’re Flying!!” This slice-of-life story is told simply in a down- to-earth fashion that focuses tightly on Fletcher’s excitement at accomplishing a rite of passage. While psychologist Lonczak acknowledges the boy’s worries (“The bike felt wobbly at first, and Fletcher was a little scared”), the tale puts heavy weight on the support of his relatives and the subtle parallel between their presence and the protectiveness of the crow’s parents. Dimitrovska’s vibrant oil-pastel illustrations are softly lined, sometimes creating an indistinct feel at the borders of people and backgrounds, making details slightly hazy. But the choice of colors for Fletcher’s helmet, eyes, bike, and clothing emphasizes the feeling of flight. In his moment of victory, the boy almost appears to be part of the sky.

An uplifting tale of triumph likely to encourage struggling young bicyclists to take off soaring.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73446-870-0

Page Count: 34

Publisher: IngramSpark

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...


Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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