Cute and playful, like its featured critter.

RIVER OTTER'S ADVENTURE

A river otter plays guide in this informative picture book that’s part guessing game, part adventure.

Realistic paintings dominated by greens and blues introduce an otter pup as she scrambles up a riverbank and wanders into a zoo. There, both readers and otter meet various animals as the latter contemplates each and decides which she’d like to emulate that day. With each speculation, a different basic river-otter attribute, such as whiskers or claws, is introduced. It might be fun to dig like a naked mole rat, for instance, but the otter would miss her “fuzzity-fluff fur” that keeps her warm and dry…like a musk ox, the next animal. In-depth information and a comparison with sea otters are found in backmatter. Each animal is illustrated with minimal anthropomorphic qualities, and action words in large, capitalized text describe their actions. When the otter mimics the tiger, the words used are “POUNCE / ROARING / SILENT / STALKING,” offering chances for children to act them out. Inconsistency in the parts of speech and verb forms presented is a significant weakness. The repetitive format will soothe younger children and build confidence in older ones. The introduction of exotic animals among more-familiar ones adds variety. Some readers might see the river otter’s journey as a support of identity play and self-acceptance; others can simply indulge in all the ways to act like animals. (Due to Covid complications, this book will publish in paperback on pub date and in hardcover in Jan. 2021.)

Cute and playful, like its featured critter. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64351-751-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Arbordale Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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