A sweet but somewhat-flimsy visual treat.

THE SECRET RHINO SOCIETY

Three friends learn that imitation isn’t the best way to demonstrate appreciation.

Fran, a white earthworm, Hudson, a gray hippo, and Jean, a smiling, hovering white light bulb, have “one thing in common”: Each wants to be a rhinoceros. They admire rhinoceroses for distinct reasons, which seem to reflect qualities they feel they lack themselves: For example, petite Fran appreciates rhinoceroses’ intimidating aspect. The friends form a secret rhinoceros-appreciation society, at which they all wear paper horns—but their celebration faces a challenge when they meet Ivy, a pale gray rhinoceros who doesn’t know how to charge, snort, or sharpen her horns. She’s a gardener, she explains. However, she does recognize that the group has more to offer than their perceived shortcomings, and, with her encouragement, the Secret Rhino Society transforms their clubhouse into a space—a delightful sandwich shop—that welcomes all. Cotterill’s delicate yet exuberant hand-built three-dimensional cardboard illustrations are a perfect foil to the book’s theme of navigating expectations and assumptions about others. Unfortunately, the text itself is underwhelming, and the book’s premise falls short of its potential. The abrupt shift from rhinoceros-appreciation-bordering-on-appropriation to selling sandwiches (especially to nameless characters who appear only in the final spread) makes for a less-successful narrative arc than the title and artwork have promised. Nevertheless, it could help kick-start conversations about stereotypes.

A sweet but somewhat-flimsy visual treat. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3000-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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