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

FLETCHER AND THE FLEDGLING

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 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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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