This testament to imagination, confidence, and entrepreneurship offers refreshing takes on learning about animals and how to...

THE REPTILE CLUB

New kid Rory hasn’t found a school club he wants to join, so he starts his own, for kids who share one of his interests: the Reptile Club.

Lots of kids like animals—and he’s certain lots of kids like reptiles—so he has high hopes, making posters and bringing in his plastic reptiles and lizard-shaped cookies. Here, what has so far seemed like a fairly run-of-the-mill school story takes a literally wild and fantastical turn when the first participants arrive: not fellow reptile lovers but a crocodile, a snake, and a lizard. The animals introduce themselves and offer some interesting facts. The crocodile tells Rory he sweats through his mouth, for example. When the other students see how much fun the interspecies group is having, “they couldn’t wait to join,” and Rory’s goal is achieved. Rory is a red-haired white child; the classroom is a multicultural group in which boys and girls alike participate in the Prancing Unicorn Club as well as the Extra Math Homework Club. Ellis’ digital artwork replicates a scratchy, penciled look, which suits the energetic, imaginative story. As winter approaches, the reptiles must leave, imparting one last animal fact: “Reptiles can’t tolerate the cold.” Delightfully, this does not spell the end of Rory’s friendships.

This testament to imagination, confidence, and entrepreneurship offers refreshing takes on learning about animals and how to make friends. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77138-655-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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Wins for compassion and for the refusal to let physical limitations hold one back.

TINY T. REX AND THE IMPOSSIBLE HUG

With such short arms, how can Tiny T. Rex give a sad friend a hug?

Fleck goes for cute in the simple, minimally detailed illustrations, drawing the diminutive theropod with a chubby turquoise body and little nubs for limbs under a massive, squared-off head. Impelled by the sight of stegosaurian buddy Pointy looking glum, little Tiny sets out to attempt the seemingly impossible, a comforting hug. Having made the rounds seeking advice—the dino’s pea-green dad recommends math; purple, New Age aunt offers cucumber juice (“That is disgusting”); red mom tells him that it’s OK not to be able to hug (“You are tiny, but your heart is big!”), and blue and yellow older sibs suggest practice—Tiny takes up the last as the most immediately useful notion. Unfortunately, the “tree” the little reptile tries to hug turns out to be a pterodactyl’s leg. “Now I am falling,” Tiny notes in the consistently self-referential narrative. “I should not have let go.” Fortunately, Tiny lands on Pointy’s head, and the proclamation that though Rexes’ hugs may be tiny, “I will do my very best because you are my very best friend” proves just the mood-lightening ticket. “Thank you, Tiny. That was the biggest hug ever.” Young audiences always find the “clueless grown-ups” trope a knee-slapper, the overall tone never turns preachy, and Tiny’s instinctive kindness definitely puts him at (gentle) odds with the dinky dino star of Bob Shea’s Dinosaur Vs. series.

Wins for compassion and for the refusal to let physical limitations hold one back. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7033-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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