Playful, friendly, goodhearted fun.


The axolotl-cheerleader picture book you didn’t know you were waiting for.

Dewdrop is an anthropomorphic axolotl whose friends are preparing for an underwater “sports festival.” Only Mia, “a weightlifting turtle,” seems involved in any sportsmanship, though, preparing rigorously for a “pebble-throwing contest.” Newman, a newt, is writing “a song to cheer everyone on,” and three minnows are “in charge of food.” As for Dewdrop, the pink, frilled amphibian is “working hard on a cheerleading routine.” While the routine may be intended for contenders in the sports festival, Dewdrop ends up cheering on the other characters as they engage in their own preparations. Dewdrop’s encouraging presence helps them fend off worries and self-doubts. The text in this graphic-novel picture book is delivered via speech balloons, and the cheery comics-style illustrations with their big-eyed characters will capture readers’ attention; Dewdrop is adorable (almost) to the point of twee. Though anthropomorphic, these characters go largely unclothed save Mia’s flower-bedecked sweatband. The underwater setting is mostly cued by gently waving lake plants, though the postures of the minnows as they cook (in impossible cauldrons, but no matter) do give a sense of buoyancy. Although axolotls occur only in Mexico, characterizations are generically normative, with no sense of ethnic distinctiveness.

Playful, friendly, goodhearted fun. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62010-689-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Oni Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.


Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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