A young bird, warm and lively, can’t bear kissing.

Rissy is a solid, roundish, colorful lovebird with three siblings, one mother, and one father who are all also lovebirds. They’re an affectionate bunch, as are their friends and relatives. Rissy’s on board for holding wings, “sky-high hugs,” tumbling, and roughhousing, but she can’t bear kisses (giving or receiving). She heads them off admirably—“ ‘No kissies!’ Rissy chirrup[s] with a most emphatic squeak”—but it’s stressful for her. Miss Bluebird accuses her of confusion, Grandma Lovebird of rudeness; schoolmates “think Rissy’s being mean.” Why? “We know lovebirds all love kisses,” they parrot. “ ‘Am I mean, Mom?’ Rissy wondered, / ‘or confused or rude or sick? / Are you certain I’m a lovebird? / Are you sure that I’m your chick? // Kissies make my tummy icky. / I feel worried, weird, and wrong. // If I can’t show love with kissies, / then I’ll never quite belong.’ ” Mom’s bolstering of Rissy’s boundaries and reassurance that she’s a lovebird family member are cheerworthy; now Rissy can explain her preferences more fully, with greater assurance than before, secure in her family and identity. Howes’ rhyming verse is both rollicking and steady, which offsets Rissy’s vulnerability without undermining it. Engle’s wonderfully stocky lovebirds are multicolored, with watercolor hue gradations and expressive beak shapes. This is an artistic gem for consent discussions, sensory-processing contexts, and anyone who champions children’s agency and bodily autonomy.

Radiant. (note to kids; note to caregivers) (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-9798-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)


Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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