The hugging puppet arms are charming and engaging, but where the novelty ends, so too does the quality of the story.



A finger-puppet board book shows different ways a caregiver bear loves and embraces the little bear.

In this take on book puppetry, both of the big bear’s arms are plush, fabric manipulatives so that an adult reader can make the animal’s arms move, tickle, swing, or—as in the title—hug. Because the bear’s arms are a constant on each page, they must be long enough to reach through the entire book. That coupled with the fact that there are two of them makes for an uncomfortable (though manageable) hold on the right-hand side—using thumb and forefinger maximizes dexterity but makes for some awkwardness in turning the pages. Each two-page layout focuses on what the big bear’s arms can do for the little bear, and the illustrations show a shift in big bear’s gaze, stance, or expression in order to get the most out of what the puppet arms can add to the image. The digital illustrations are simple, allowing the puppetry to take center stage, but this also means they aren’t anything special to look at. The text follows suit; it’s dry and to-the-point. The similarly titled Hug Me Little Bunny follows the same pattern to focus on loving arms, ending identically with a hug. It also follows suit with lackluster illustrations and text.

The hugging puppet arms are charming and engaging, but where the novelty ends, so too does the quality of the story. (Board book. 6 mos.-2)

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7521-8

Page Count: 10

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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