A skillfully told, whimsically illustrated story of friendship, with a rodeo aspect that may limit its audience.

IF A HORSE HAD WORDS

The friendship between a boy and a horse is explored in this picture book.

A newborn foal, struggling to rise, slips and becomes trapped in a badger hole. This tension-filled narrative beginning is agreeably softened by Eldridge’s airy, whimsical watercolor illustrations that give the moment a calm, problem-to-be-resolved feel. Sure enough, a man and a boy arrive and pull the unhurt foal to freedom, and the basic premise of the story is neatly set: The foal, named Red Badger, and the boy become friends, and they both dislike the ground. When Red Badger is grown, the boy tries to ride him but is bucked off. The boy laughs, but the man decides to sell Red Badger at auction. They are reunited much later at the rodeo where Red Badger is a bucking bronco and the boy has become a bronco rider. Cooper’s narrative is soundly constructed, full of poetic circularity, and the illustrations make an airy counterpoint, with plenty of white space to reinforce the idea of movement and open country. But the underlying presumption of the dominion of human over beast is an atypical theme for a children’s picture book, and readers may find the idea of Red Badger’s ending up as a bucking bronco in a rodeo less than nourishing.

A skillfully told, whimsically illustrated story of friendship, with a rodeo aspect that may limit its audience. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-91872-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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