A tad didactic, but Calvin does look cool.

CALVIN, LOOK OUT!

A BOOKWORM BIRDIE GETS GLASSES

A starling gets spectacular specs.

Something’s wrong at book-loving Calvin’s library: Words look blurry, and he trips over a chair. The librarian opines farsightedness, so Calvin researches it, then visits the optometrist. An eye test and a fitting later, Calvin proudly heads home sporting brand-new “spectacles, as he prefer[s] to call them.” Merciless teasing ensues from his scoffing flock, but Calvin doesn’t mind, recalling bespectacled luminaries he’s read about. Later, on a forest walk, he’s accidentally pinned under a huge rock. (His glasses don’t break.) Calvin remembers reading about how Archimedes once used mirrors to reflect sunlight and save lives. Applying this principle, Calvin reflects sunlight with his glasses and successfully sends a distress signal to which his flock responds. Afterward Calvin recounts his adventure and how his glasses effected his rescue. Surprise: All the birds want glasses, too, in order to be “cool like Calvin,” and now all migrate in their own spectacular spectacles, cool and happy. The book means well and aims to assure new young eyeglass wearers they’re smart and will be readily accepted into their own flocks. However, the story’s more obviously preachy than convincing. The specs-wearing greats Calvin remembers—Gandhi, Ben Franklin and John Lennon—will be way over preschoolers’ heads. The watercolor illustrations are quirky and lively; colored words set in larger capitals highlight dramatic story points.

A tad didactic, but Calvin does look cool. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4549-0910-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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