THE VELVETEEN RABBIT

It would be almost impossible to ruin Margery Williams’ heartbreaking story of a toy rabbit who wants to be “Real” and is loved so much by a little boy that “all the pink rubbed off his nose where the Boy had kissed him.” But app developer Ruckus Media Group comes close with a lazy adaptation that includes a 24-minute video version narrated by Meryl Streep. The video was released in 1985, back when some might have thought the British accent Streep employs might be real. Despite its star power, the video looks dated and jagged on the iPad screen. Readers have a choice of watching the video, with pans and zooms across still images accompanied by a lovely piano soundtrack, or reading the text version, which lacks narration by Streep or anyone else and whose illustrations are lifted from the video (which was based on the book illustrated by David Jorgensen in 1985). The drawings are soft and dreamy. Text floats into the frame, often on its own page, as if the app’s designers couldn’t reconcile the story and imagery in a more efficient manner. At 112 pages, it’s a lot of swiping; it’s hard to imagine a parent will be able to keep a young listener enthralled for that long without Streep’s help. At least there’s a way to practice: Readers can record their own narration with the app. One last insult: A button to “Buy the Book” leads to a web page filled with children’s books, none of which is a print version of The Velveteen Rabbit. This app isn’t reimagined or restored, it’s simply recycled. (iPad storybook app. 3-10)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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