What compassion looks like—without a shadow of a doubt.

LITTLE CHEETAH'S SHADOW

A shadowy revelation makes for a gentle story about friendship and understanding.

Little Cheetah’s shadow (fittingly named Little Shadow) has abandoned him. When Little Cheetah finally finds his companion, he learns that Little Shadow has felt neglected. Little Cheetah, his shadow says, is always in the lead and gets to choose where they go. Rather than respond defensively (“That doesn’t sound very nice at all,” he says instead), Little Cheetah quite literally lets his shadow take the lead (the laws of physics need not apply). Both get a sense of how it feels to walk in each other’s shoes, especially when Little Shadow inadvertently lets a door close on Little Cheetah’s tail, something about which Little Shadow had previously complained. The pair decides that walking side by side is best—until they reach a dark tunnel. Darkness erases the gray, transparent Little Shadow, so the solid, vividly orange Little Cheetah takes the lead, flashlight in hand. These empathetic characters make thoughtful efforts to gain perspective and understand each other in this earnest and sweet (but never cloying) story from the author of Otto and Pio (2019) and The Lion and the Bird (2014), two other tender tales of friendship. Dubuc’s colored pencil–and-watercolor illustrations on spacious, uncluttered spreads depict a tiny, intimate village of anthropomorphized creatures; Little Cheetah’s home is particularly cozy.

What compassion looks like—without a shadow of a doubt. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61689-840-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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