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


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 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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...


Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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