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

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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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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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