TOO CROWDED

A goldfish seeks drier pastures.

Gil lives in a round glass bowl with “a plant, a castle, and 138 pebbles to clean every day.” But it is “TOO CROWDED!” Gil cries, cradling his snoot after bumping it against the side of his bowl. In a shocking, jubilant twist, Gil slaps a bandage on his nose, shoves his rear fins into some sneakers, and packs a rolling bag, off on a quest to find a new house “that is not too crowded.” A bird’s nest is roomy, but the bird song is “TOO LOUD!” Cat’s house is huge and quiet, but…there’s a cat in it. Gil hitches a ride on Turtle’s house, but when the spoilsport reptile reminds him that fish “can’t breathe air,” Gil suddenly realizes that he’s suffocating. This plays out in vignettes in dramatic, Wile E. Coyote fashion. Luckily, his human, an overalls-clad Black child with short, curly hair and a bow, comes to the rescue and brings Gil back to his bowl. And when Turtle moves in too, it turns out that a bowl with a plant, a castle, 138 pebbles, and a friend is not too crowded after all. The story is a satisfying balance of familiar and fresh, with an endearing protagonist and an especially timely message about isolation and connection.

Utterly delightful. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-2238-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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