A sweet sojourn in Nepal; though not perfect, it’s nevertheless an important contribution.



Brothers Alu and Bhalu are celebrating Kukur Tihar, a special day to honor dogs during festival time in Nepal.

The two young boys search the streets of Kathmandu for a stray dog to feed, remembering the brave search-and-rescue dogs that saved many lives after earthquakes devastated their country in 2015. Multiaward-winner Engle teams up with her daughter, Nicole Karanjit, and son-in-law, Amish Karanjit (who was born and raised in Nepal), to craft this tale based on a true story from another part of the world. The spare text is interwoven with authentic touches about Nepali family and culture, describing how “families chased away the darkness / by lighting lanterns on doorsteps, / rooftops, / and windowsills” and how the children strive “not to scatter / the rice flour / arranged in dazzling patterns / on the living room floor.” Using a dark palette, Jeyaveeran’s authentic illustrations add another layer of cultural knowledge, showing dark-haired, brown-skinned children and adults wearing traditional Nepali outfits and joyously celebrating the festival. While the resolution to Alu and Bhalu’s search is successful and satisfying, the text may not fully convey to young readers the cultural depth of the brothers’ actions, as they feed their new pet the festival feast meant for the family. The oversimplification of the climax diminishes the impact of this otherwise remarkable story set in another culture.

A sweet sojourn in Nepal; though not perfect, it’s nevertheless an important contribution. (glossary, further reading, activities) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5124-3205-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.


From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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