Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message.

READ REVIEW

ELBOW GREASE

If it first you don’t succeed, try getting hit by lightning.

The smallest of his four brothers, Elbow Grease is an electric-powered monster truck with big dreams. Each one of his brothers is tougher, faster, smarter, or braver than he is, but at least he’s got enough “gumption” to spare. That comes in handy when he rushes off to join a Grand Prix in a fit of pique. And while in the end he doesn’t win, he does at least finish thanks to a conveniently placed lightning bolt. That inspires the true winner of the race (Elbow Grease’s hero, Big Wheels McGee) to declare that it’s gumption that’s the true mark of a winner. With his emphasis on trying new things, even if you fail, Cena, a professional wrestler and celebrity, earnestly offers a legitimately inspiring message even if his writing borders on the pedestrian. Fortunately McWilliam’s illustrations give a great deal of life, emotion, action, and mud splatters to the middling text. Humans are few and far between, but the trucks’ keeper, Mel the mechanic, is pictured as a brown-skinned woman with glasses.

Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7350-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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