A charming story of friendship, dance moves, artistic fervor and squirrels.



Mario is a squirrel who loves his dance moves, from the “Bowling Ball” to “Twirly Ballet Arms,” and his relatives assure him he is amazing.

He believes them. His friend, blue–tutu-and-glasses-sporting Isabelle, however, dismisses his dance moves as “nice:” “ ‘NICE?’ said Mario. ‘I think you mean amazing. Or astonishing, maybe.’ ‘Hmmm,’ said Isabelle.” When she informs Mario that anyone can have a move, he’s devastated. He decides his new creative pursuit will be finding and displaying sticks… amazing sticks. He labels his sticks “Scratchy,” “Twiggles” and “Plain Jane.” When Isabelle realizes she’s driven her friend to these sticky extremes, she feels bad about the “nice” and switches it to a  “elegant.” She adds “graceful.” In a harmonious denouement, the two squirrels mash their dance moves and invent the “Even More Amazingly Amazing Amazer.” (“And everyone was amazed.”) In one sense the story is about pursuing one’s own passion, no matter what others say or don’t say about it. It’s also about a friend who realizes the power of the wrong word at the wrong time and takes it back. Warm, winning gouache illustrations reflect soft autumnal landscapes populated by cartoonish animals and are juxtaposed with comically elaborate diagrams of various dance moves, some detailed on cut-out graph paper.

A charming story of friendship, dance moves, artistic fervor and squirrels. (And squirrel facts!) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86854-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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Lit with sweetness.


Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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