Readers will enjoy watching this clueless detective get the “mane” job done in spite of himself.



An inept lion detective searches for a missing cat.

After receiving his assignment from Ms. Chief (an elephant), Agent Lion takes two hours to reach the home of Fluffy’s owner, Ms. Flamingo. (A map tracking his route from his office shows stops at fast-food joints and entertainment venues. Readers will note the more direct path he could have followed had distractions not beckoned.) Arriving on the scene, Agent Lion asks Ms. Flamingo ludicrous questions and posits absurd theories; checks for clues in unlikely places, including the refrigerator; and wreaks havoc when interviewing neighbors throughout her building. As the self-absorbed, doughnut-loving gumshoe continues his ridiculous investigation, Ms. Flamingo, patience gone, declares the unsolved case over. Still, she invites Agent Lion back to her apartment for tea. Dejectedly arranging the couch’s pillows, Agent Lion finally—and unwittingly—locates Fluffy. All ends well as neighbors convene for a sweet celebration. This is a lightweight but humorous story; readers will chuckle at the silly questions Agent Lion asks and the witty, knowing comments he makes about cats. The ending, though predictable and unoriginal, satisfies. Lion is amusing; self-confident; and, as depicted in these delicate cartoon illustrations, very expressive, as are the other animal characters (including the beady-eyed pigeon Lion spies on a rooftop). Readers will also appreciate the endpapers’ displays of mouthwatering doughnuts.

Readers will enjoy watching this clueless detective get the “mane” job done in spite of himself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286917-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Lit with sweetness.


Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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