A child, a tree frog, and a poignant, poetic journey to find a sense of home.

DEAR TREEFROG

Sometimes all it takes is finding an unexpected friend, waiting and still, ready for play.

A young child with pale skin, short black hair, and (literally) almond-shaped eyes has just moved to a new home. Unsure of this big change, the child holds a cat stuffie and looks askance at the movers. Then a little frog catches the child’s eye. Spread by spread, season by season, lyrical poems tell the story of this budding friendship, in which the child learns to be still and see small details in this world, as an artist or scientist does. These deceptively simple poems contain a multitude of poetic devices. Short, expressive facts about tree frogs also accompany the poems. In playing with the frog, the child mimics its movements, and on one spread, they are both depicted with the same speckles and black outline. This oneness helps the child feel less lonely and eventually find a friend in a brown-skinned classmate who is equally still and observant. Sudyka’s bold lines and vivid watercolor palette paint an immersive, verdant world, with occasional color pops. Whimsical flourishes often blur the child’s real and imaginary worlds while concealed in the illustrations are names of birds, bugs, flowers, and more for young scientists to discover. Backmatter provides additional information about tree frogs, perfect for STEAM lessons. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A child, a tree frog, and a poignant, poetic journey to find a sense of home. (Picture book/poetry. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-06476-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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