Like Thomas himself, Levy seems intent on sabotaging her own effort to connect and find a warm welcome.

THOMAS THE TOADILLY TERRIBLE BULLY

The serious topic of bullying gets a light treatment in this tale of limited social skills and accidental friendship.

The brisk introduction of Thomas, a newcomer to town, may leave readers, like his new acquaintances, cold. Cocky, pushy and clearly impatient, Thomas quickly decides that if his first approach doesn’t work, he’ll “be a bully instead.” Unfortunately, he’s just not cut out for the role. In what feels like an almost obligatory humorous pose, Thomas is shown peering into a mirror wearing only his tighty whities and bemoaning his flabby abs. Frustrated and determined, Thomas waits for someone truly puny to pick on only to discover that another, much bigger bully has gotten there first. Put into the position of defending young Gomer (and himself), Thomas thinks fast and deflects the danger. Paintings in acrylics on gessoed paper have a pleasingly textural look, well-suited to the warty characters and woodland setting. Bright pops of blue, purple and red contrast with the mossy greens and browns that dominate many of the illustrations. The appearance of a bug-eyed fly throughout provides additional interest. Unfortunately, none of this quite manages to compensate for the slim storyline and pat resolution.

Like Thomas himself, Levy seems intent on sabotaging her own effort to connect and find a warm welcome. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5373-8

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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