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A PENGUIN LIKE ME

A well-meaning but heavy-handed lesson in accepting differences.

Readers meet several members of a penguin colony.

“Every penguin is different. But each one is a penguin.” Starting with the endpapers, Pfister’s inimitable art style soars, depicting 22 comical, anthropomorphic seabirds cavorting against a gray watercolor background. Sadly, the text, translated from German, quickly becomes wordy, hammering home a message of inclusivity. What little plot there is involves newcomer Lucas, who looks a bit different from the others and is wondering if he’ll be accepted. There’s no doubt the others will embrace him, however, since everyone seems to like the outgoing Lucas. Next, we’re introduced to 11 other penguins, all different but integral parts of the colony. Timmy masks depression by clowning, Sofia exhibits synesthesia, and Felix, whose short wings make life more challenging, is ceaselessly “cheerful and chirpy”—a somewhat condescending depiction of physical disability. And “while the other girl penguins have crushes on boy penguins, Lena is head over heels in love with Ida. She loves being in love and having butterflies in her tummy. And one day she’ll tell Ida how she feels.” The relentlessly long descriptions of the various characters—occasionally with sly humor—may reassure some children, but by the time Lucas finally re-emerges, many will feel shortchanged and possibly patronized.

A well-meaning but heavy-handed lesson in accepting differences. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9780735845589

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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