Choose this one, for sure.

CHARLIE CHOOSES

An indecisive child is chosen.

Poor Charlie is an anxious little boy. He can’t make even small decisions about things like ice cream and underwear, never mind choosing the present he wants for his birthday. Peacock’s text humorously conveys Charlie’s worries about making the wrong choices without ever stooping to poke fun while Slater’s cartoon art adopts a retro style that makes the picture book feel somehow familiar. A sleepless, wide-eyed Charlie lying in bed uncertain whether he wants the light on or off will elicit sympathy. When Charlie finally does decide that a pet dog would be the perfect birthday present, he confronts his biggest conundrum yet: which pup to pick at the animal shelter? This is where Slater’s illustrations truly shine, with depictions of a range of dog breeds that seem like a mashup of Sandra Boynton’s and Christian Robinson’s styles. In a pitch-perfect ending, the perfect pup chooses Charlie, relieving him of the need to make a decision and giving him a companion who helps ease his worries from that point on. Charlie has light-brown skin and a shock of brown hair; neither he nor any of the other racially diverse children who populate this book seem to have any parents, nor any need of them—a whimsical detail that adds appeal.

Choose this one, for sure. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1727-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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