The simple storyline and art complement each other as readers are gently guided to comprehend the folly of judging a book by...

ADRIFT

AN ODD COUPLE OF POLAR BEARS

What happens when the loudest (and smelliest) polar bear finds himself stuck on an ice floe with the quietest and most fastidious polar bear? They build a wall!

Neither Karl nor Hazel wants to have anything to do with the other, but as the ice steadily melts, they get closer and closer both literally and figuratively. Soon they’re playing games, singing songs, and fishing together. As their frozen chunk of real estate shrinks to a standing-room-only platform, they sight land and gleefully jump ashore. Taking off in separate directions, Karl inexplicably searches for fish. (Hasn’t he just left behind a fish-filled ocean?) Hazel, on the other hand, wants to explore and sit by herself. It doesn’t take long before the suddenly lonely bears call out to each other from across the vast new wilderness and reunite, even becoming roommates. The resolution, however pleasing, feels rushed, as the bears jump straight from realizing they’re friends to sharing living quarters. Olien’s palette of blues and stark white offset by bold, black outlines convincingly conjures the chilly Arctic landscape. Round, horn-rimmed glasses and a cheesy smile bring Karl’s gregarious personality to life, and Hazel’s reticent demeanor is nicely paired with an orange polka-dot scarf. Classroom-friendly facts and links about polar bears, climate change, and the Arctic are appended.

The simple storyline and art complement each other as readers are gently guided to comprehend the folly of judging a book by its cover. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245177-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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