Pity poor Charlie when he has to buy eight wedding rings.


Two sea creatures who do not really leap to mind as cuddly-wuddlies are starved for a little smooch and a little squeeze from the denizens of the beach.

Charlie the shark and Olivia Octopus—who could have come straight from Hanna-Barbera/Nickelodeon central casting—have yearnings. Charlie wants a kiss, and Olivia wants a hug, so they study beachgoers in order to devise stratagems. Elementary, my dear Ahab. Just set up a kissing booth, or put on a play, or offer free rides, or throw a cookout, complete with “delicious algae soufflé.” Kisses and hugs always follow a good time, don’t they? The kids are a tad wary, though, and the parents are near hysterical. When their best designs are met with screams of horror, Charlie begins to shed a tear. Olivia moves to comfort him. A hug. A gentlemanly kiss in return. Not bad, not bad at all. Who needs those pasty landlubbers? Affection can come from the oddest and often most overlooked places. Let us just hope that Charlie never activates his urge to swallow Olivia whole when a kiss was all that was intended. Brain chemistry...what a mess it can make of things. But not here. Cornell milks the premise for all it’s worth, throwing verisimilitude to the winds; a puckered-up Olivia, eyes closed, should have readers in hysterics.

Pity poor Charlie when he has to buy eight wedding rings. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220320-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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