Introverts need not apply.

VALERIA

A bashful rabbit learns to make friends in this Spanish import.

Valeria, whose worlds at school and home are depicted in crisp linework with a bright, spring-colored palette, may excel at knowing her colors, numbers, and letters, but she lacks any self-confidence. She isn’t aware that she is “as pretty as a spring morning” (both her shiny hair and sparkly eyes are noted) and repeatedly hides her face; she isn’t aware of her sweet voice and speaks too softly; and she isn’t aware of the power of her laugh or the strength of her physical affection, so she withholds them. She looks down at the ground too much (though in the spread noting this, she, confusingly, is depicted as looking up at everyone’s feet above her). When the wind, described as dangerously bored, carries her hat away, she finally sees her classmates for who they are—and hugs Raul, her friend with a bandaged leg and crutch. Rid of her shyness, she discovers “a new world.” The story, which places a moderate emphasis on Valeria’s physical appearance, may disappoint readers who see more value in other qualities. Moreover, children may take away a baffling message about bodily autonomy, since the story explicitly notes Valeria’s inability to give away “her hugs and her kisses.” Finally, some children may think Valeria is doing fine precisely as she is, with an introspective, shy personality not necessarily in need of fixing.

Introverts need not apply. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-84-18302-21-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cuento de Luz

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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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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