Worth a look for penguin fans.



It’s a penguin family reunion in Antarctica for Crystal’s birthday.

Little blue penguin Periwinkle, who lives in Australia, gets an invite to her cousin’s birthday. Periwinkle is worried that she is the only blue penguin and the smallest (by species, they are the smallest), but Mama counsels that it’s the insides that matter. Next she and her platypus buddy learn from wise koala Mr. Wendell where Antarctica is (and that there are no polar bears there). Perwinkle’s set to go. Albert Albatross straps on a passenger platform and flies Periwinkle and New Zealand cousin Rocky Rockhopper to South Africa to pick up Cappy. Albert can’t carry all of them, so they catch rides on humpback whales heading to meet the rest of the family in the snow. After much penguin frolicking on the ice and in the water, Periwinkle loses the gift that she brought but finds the inner strength to give Crystal a special, personal gift. Petersen-Fleming’s slim story functions as a vehicle for facts and a moral of individual specialness. Spafford’s signature illustrations from her line of cards, books, and (soon) television show can be a bit twee with all those very joyous penguins. But for those young naturalists who are interested in penguins as more than funny, flightless fowl, Periwinkle’s tale with penguin facts and maps on the endpapers is a good start.

Worth a look for penguin fans. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016


Page Count: 48

Publisher: Blue Sneaker/Southwestern

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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


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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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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