Bernard’s conquest of his inner fear stands out as a quiet triumph.

BERNARD MAKES A SPLASH!

In this British import, the canine manager of a swimming pool enters a diving contest and overcomes his fear of the high diving board.

Bernard is a basset hound who manages the pool by day and secretly practices diving by himself at night. When elite dog divers gather for the pool’s annual competition, Bernard somehow signs up to participate. When it is his turn to dive, however, Bernard is too nervous to even try to participate in the first round. He has another chance in the second heat and finds encouragement from his new friend, a female German wirehaired pointer and accomplished diver named Perrie Piccalilli. Bernard completes his dive with somersaults, spirals, and spins, and he receives a special gold-star award for his efforts. The humorous, rhyming text is uneven in quality, with some lines spot-on in dramatic cadence and a few word pairs that break the rhythm or stretch for meaning and/or rhyme. The divers are a diverse cast of canines, including many breeds and both males and females. The audience for the competition includes other kinds of animals and people of many races. Mixed-media illustrations with collage elements have a loose, impressionistic effect and include endearing expressions on Bernard’s anxious face. An enticing cover shows Bernard diving into the pool; a hand-scrawled title in what looks like black crayon attracts with its naïve charm.

Bernard’s conquest of his inner fear stands out as a quiet triumph. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84976-660-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tate/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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