Those with sensory issues or those attending school with them may learn from these kitties’ examples.


A sensory-sensitive kitty’s first day of kittygarten is a disaster, but after a break, she’s ready to try again, with some modifications.

Clover isn’t looking forward to kittygarten, and indeed, her first day is worse than she imagined. Salas’ word choices bring home to readers just how uncomfortable the situation is for Clover: “Sunshine glared”; “a bell…sounded like a GONG”; “Ms. Snappytail’s purrrrrfume stank.” Though readers will see the tender solicitations of Oliver as those of a perfect friend for someone with sensory issues, Clover is too distraught to notice. Her day ends with a (consequence-free) biting, spitting “hissy fit.” Clover stays home for the next three days; her mother doesn’t push. Oliver comes by twice, but Clover hides. It’s clear, though, that her desire for companionship will win out, and on Friday, armed with sunglasses, earmuffs, and her own mat for naptime, she returns to kittygarden. The day isn’t perfect, but by taking care of her specific needs, Clover survives with the help of her “calm, kind friend” Oliver. Readers and their caregivers will wish for backmatter that might provide additional guidance, whether for themselves or to help a friend, and it’s disappointing that Clover has no help in brainstorming solutions or getting through the school day. She seems very much on her own aside from Oliver, who is almost too good to be true.

Those with sensory issues or those attending school with them may learn from these kitties’ examples. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4246-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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