Young readers will find much to excite and amaze in this gentle fantastical adventure and visual delight.

CHIRRI & CHIRRA UNDER THE SEA

Chirri and Chirra ride their bikes to a beautiful, magical place.

They unhesitatingly ride into a cave, where, at tunnel’s end, they arrive under the sea. Pedaling all the way and never getting wet, they move along with the current and amid a multitude of fish through a forest of coral. An opening in the seaweed is filled with “seashell sofas,” two of which are reserved for them. They are served lovely, unusual dishes, with the food hiding gifts: a tiny conch for Chirri and a pearl for Chirra. Afterward they pedal to a musical performance and then to a hall presided over by a sea horse, where they may each choose one treasure. Their choices are fitting and satisfying and will remind them of their sea adventure. In this Japanese import the tale is told in the sparest of language, only one or two simple sentences per scene and the “dring-dring” of the bicycles’ bells. The illustrations carry readers along with Chirri and Chirra in the bluest of blue seas, through the waving coral, the lovely, bright, seashell room, the theatre, and the treasure hall—all filled with amusing and surprising details. The children present as stylized Asian girls, informed by the use of the gender-specific “she.”

Young readers will find much to excite and amaze in this gentle fantastical adventure and visual delight. (Picture book/fantasy. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59270-302-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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