Sadly, this tale of picture-book representation misses a valuable opportunity.

WILLOW THE ARMADILLO

Representation matters.

Willow the armadillo loves picture books. She checks armfuls of them out of the library and desperately wants to see herself in one. She tries several things to achieve her goal: taking a heroism class, auditioning, answering an ad (“YOU COULD BE THE NEXT PICTURE BOOK HERO!”). Nothing works out, and she becomes discouraged. An unexpected crisis helps her discover how to be a hero—do the thing she loves the most and help others along the way. Bright, colorful illustrations depict various cartoon animal characters, some with more expressive faces than others. On the surface, Willow’s story seems heartwarming; however, it seems to make light of a much more serious problem in the children’s-book industry: a lack of representation not of animals but of children of color and other marginalized identities. Will children of color, children with disabilities, and children with LGBTQ identities wishing to see themselves represented as picture-book heroes see themselves in this pink armadillo? The denouement, in which Willow decides to be happy reading others’ stories because “nothing could top being a hero in real life,” feels like a slap in the face to those children who deserve to see themselves. What is needed right now are books that can serve as mirrors for children and offer them the chance to see themselves as literary, and literal, heroes.

Sadly, this tale of picture-book representation misses a valuable opportunity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4105-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 36

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

CLAYMATES

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 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

more