A sweet but somewhat-flimsy visual treat.

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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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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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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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