A lively #ownvoices romp into the power of intention—and the hilarity of trial and error.


In this playful retelling of an Inuit origin story, a feisty elder creates two of the Arctic’s most celebrated animals.

Guk, an Inuit woman with graying braids and light brown skin, has the power to “breath[e] life into the world.” With imagination and exuberance, Guk creates the walrus and the caribou. Young readers may notice that Guk’s creations aren’t quite as they should be: The walrus sports “huge antlers” while the caribou’s snout contains fearsome tusks. Aside from their comical appearances (rendered whimsically in Cutler’s cartoony illustrations), the walrus’ and caribou’s mismatched features also wreak havoc on the human world. The walrus’ antlers accidentally “overturn the kayaks in the water”; meanwhile, “every time it saw a hunter, the caribou would charge him with its tusks.” Guk addresses these issues by gleefully swapping the appendages to better suit the animals. In a final act of reckoning, Guk punishes the caribou for its cantankerous attacks against the hunters, via a swift kick—thereby giving the caribou its distinctively flat forehead and skittishness of humans. Inuit author Harper’s high-spirited version of this Indigenous oral tale will make a delightful addition to both libraries and personal collections. Backmatter includes a short Inuktitut glossary with a link to more Inuktitut language resources.

A lively #ownvoices romp into the power of intention—and the hilarity of trial and error. (author’s introduction, glossary) (Picture book. 5-12)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77227-256-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Inhabit Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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