Playful, friendly, goodhearted fun.

DEWDROP

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 WONKY DONKEY

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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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