Thoughtfully taps our natural capacity for empathy and kindness in caring for all creatures and our planet.

PANGOLINA

A pangolin advocates for wildlife conservation through her own tale of survival and hope.

Pangolina lives with her mother in a burrow. Textured illustrations detail the pangolins’ scales-plus-hair appearance, engaging readers with expressive eyes whose sparkle also resonates with Ai, a girl who later saves Pangolina following her capture by an animal trafficker. A quick plot exposes facts of life for endangered species in the wild using clear, logical, and sympathetic language accessible to the youngest readers. The atmospheric artwork defines a lush nocturnal habitat and its diverse occupants, including Pangolina’s friends Bat, wild pigs, and “wise Civet.” It’s Civet who dissects the visceral realities of animal trafficking while delving into emotional complexities that reveal the interconnectedness between animals and humans. Complementary verbal and visual narratives are compelling in their sophisticated simplicity, which offers layers of meaning, teaching moments, and opportunities for reflection. Case in point is Ai’s name, which can be: the (Mandarin) Chinese word for love; a homonym for eye—the shining feature on most spreads suggesting windows to these animals’ souls; a homonym for the English first-person pronoun demonstrating everyone’s potential to make a difference. Comprehensive aftermatter details pangolin facts, practical action items, and resources for all ages. Human characters have tan or brown skin and dark hair with various textures; one child uses a wheelchair.

Thoughtfully taps our natural capacity for empathy and kindness in caring for all creatures and our planet. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-6626-5040-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: minedition

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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