A sweet story about coping with new siblings and appreciating friendship, featuring some inspired use of Australian animals.



A gentle adventure story, with a subtle moral about accepting new siblings without feeling displaced.

Zangadoo Kangaroo feels overshadowed by his little brother Joey, but when he borrows his father’s magical boomerang, he discovers a special talent and some new friends—a colorful group of Australian animals. The great strength of the book is its focus on these animals, with all of the top-billing creatures making appearances—kangaroos, koalas, wombats—but also lesser knowns like budgies and emus. The creative use of Australian slang is also a highlight, with words like “crikey,” “lolly” and “billabong” that will delight younger readers. The book has a glossary in the back that will define Aussie words, which may ignite a further interest in the flora and fauna of Australia. Small details, such as Zangadoo’s mum’s surfing trophies and his dad’s work as a bush pilot, sketch in a picture of an eccentric and loving family that would be fun to visit again. One stumbling point is that while the book suggests that the boomerang is magical, the nature of its power isn’t explored. There is a brief discussion of the boomerang’s history, but more use of it would have made this stronger and livelier for young readers. Also, moments of tension are undercut a little too quickly—Zangadoo’s friends travel to the Outback, seemingly walking there from their small town, and find him almost immediately after the boomerang has whisked him away on a magical journey, and a scene of Zangadoo and his friends being chased by dingoes is resolved after only a page. However, younger readers should enjoy the simplicity of the story, as well as the adorable illustrations.

A sweet story about coping with new siblings and appreciating friendship, featuring some inspired use of Australian animals.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984742820

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Zangadoo Entertainment

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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Lit with sweetness.


Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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