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


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 Books

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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