The McMullans have won legions of fans with I Stink! (2002) and its sequels, but their dog characters fail to exert the same...


A French bulldog named Toby adjusts to the arrival of a new dog, a female named Pinkie, and the pair quickly become best friends.

Toby is a sedate, rusty-orange dog who has his favorite spots in his house, all denoting warmth and safety. He loves his special patch of sunlight on the carpet and the warm lap of his owner, a white teenager who likes to read. When Pinkie (with distinctive pink ears) arrives on the scene, she immediately takes over the house, leaving Toby displaced and depressed. He slinks down to the basement to hide in a corner, but Pinkie follows him, and her concern leads to a quick rapprochement, with the two dogs suddenly pals for life. Pinkie’s approach to Toby—she sidles up “against his rump”—may set off some questions or giggles, with its focus on dog rear ends. The metaphor of their canine companionship as the new sunshine in Toby’s life will likely go over the heads of the intended audience. Watercolor illustrations once Pinkie arrives have a rather dark, foreboding air to contrast with the sun and light elements, and the dogs often seem posed and static.

The McMullans have won legions of fans with I Stink! (2002) and its sequels, but their dog characters fail to exert the same snappy appeal. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4327-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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Hee haw.

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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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