This moralizing modern fable favoring brains over brawn missteps. (Picture book. 4-8)

MACCA THE ALPACA

Macca, an uber-cuddly alpaca, lives a carefree life until he crosses paths with a llama bully.

The llama, not-so-subtly named Harmer, is downright awful. He kicks, yells, taunts, and steals in a single page of illustration. An allegorical story ensues in which Macca and Harmer face off in what turns out to be a battle of wits. With each challenge presented, Macca bests Harmer not through brute strength but through the clever use of a tool. At the final challenge, racing up a mountain, Macca’s lithe physicality proves an asset, as his nimble body easily navigates the rocks. There is much in this book that readers will surely enjoy. The illustrations are emotive and humorous. The rhyming text is enjoyable to read aloud. It is an anti-bullying tale with a satisfying comeuppance. The presentation of Macca as totally good and Harmer as totally bad, however, feels like a missed opportunity, as the lack of nuance renders the narrative patently pedantic. There is also a cringeworthy use of the term “karma” that appears when the llama bully plummets down the mountain. The inaccurate application of a spiritually significant term to imply that bad actors get what is coming to them simply because it rhymes conveniently with “llama” is dismissive and borderline offensive to adherents of Hinduism and Buddhism.

This moralizing modern fable favoring brains over brawn missteps. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-60282-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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