THE SECRET VALENTINE

From the Duck and Hippo series

Duck is his friends’ secret valentine in this latest in the Duck and Hippo series.

When Duck realizes that she doesn’t have a valentine on Valentine’s Day, she’s inspired. Sharp-eyed readers will catch glimpses of Duck as she stealthily leaves party invitations at Hippo’s, Turtle’s, Pig’s, and Elephant’s places. Each suspects their own special friend; Hippo and Duck, Turtle and Pig seem to be in relationships, though it’s not spelled out in the text. Readers are then privy to the various preparations each friend makes to attend, and there’s also some embedded time-telling practice. Excited Hippo brushes his teeth and dons his bow tie at 1:00. Turtle starts walking to the park at 2:00. Pig is bathing at 3:00. An hour later, everyone is surprised to arrive at the same time, but where is Duck? She makes her grand entrance as the secret valentine, presents Hippo with a red rose, and declares, “The best valentines are friends!” The group concurs as they all share the special treats they have brought. London’s latest is lackluster. There’s little in the way of character development, so those who don’t know the series already are not going to know the friends any better—or care to—after finishing this despite Joyner’s bright and cheery illustrations.

For fans only. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0035-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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 pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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