Humor, emotion, and great puppy-dog eyes.

WHERE'D MY JO GO?

A small dog named Big Al gets left behind at a truck stop, where he waits for his owner to come back for him.

Jo drives a big, blue rig with Al in the seat next to her, sharing life on the road. Al has white fur with rust-colored spots and dark, expressive eyes, poignantly illustrated on the appealing cover. Jo has curly, red hair, light skin, and a jaunty baseball cap personalized with her name. In peppy, rhyming text Al details his antics around the truck stop and his sad realization that while he was playing, he was left behind when Jo hit the road. Al waits at the truck stop all afternoon and into the night, growing more and more worried about Jo’s whereabouts. Just as a brown-skinned boy named Zack is begging his parents to let him adopt the stray dog he’s found, Jo pulls up in her blue truck for a happy reunion with her canine best friend. Watercolor-and-pencil illustrations of Al’s playful behavior and expressions help make him an irresistible character. A wide variety of formats and perspectives add interest, with a fine sense of dramatic suspense particularly evident in the nighttime scenes.

Humor, emotion, and great puppy-dog eyes. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-53411-044-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself.

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THE DAY YOU BEGIN

School-age children encounter and overcome feelings of difference from their peers in the latest picture book from Woodson.

This nonlinear story centers on Angelina, with big curly hair and brown skin, as she begins the school year with a class share-out of summer travels. Text and illustrations effectively work together to convey her feelings of otherness as she reflects on her own summer spent at home: “What good is this / when others were flying,” she ponders while leaning out her city window forlornly watching birds fly past to seemingly faraway places. López’s incorporation of a ruler for a door, table, and tree into the illustrations creatively extends the metaphor of measuring up to others. Three other children—Rigoberto, a recent immigrant from Venezuela; a presumably Korean girl with her “too strange” lunch of kimchi, meat, and rice; and a lonely white boy in what seems to be a suburb—experience more-direct teasing for their outsider status. A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details, including a literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride in spite of the taunting. This reassuring, lyrical book feels like a big hug from a wise aunt as she imparts the wisdom of the world in order to calm trepidatious young children: One of these things is not like the other, and that is actually what makes all the difference.

A must-have book about the power of one’s voice and the friendships that emerge when you are yourself. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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