BEAR WITH ME

Owen’s world is perfect until his parents decide to add a bear to their family. “It started off just right. I had mom and a dad and my own set of blocks. I had everything I needed.”  His parents bring home a huge, brown bear named Gary who invades Owen’s perfect life and territory. Gary takes up Owen’s parents’ time, plays with his toys, ruins his markers and swing and keeps him up all night with his overwhelming snoring. It takes a while for Owen to adjust to this enormous change, but like children everywhere with a new sibling or other addition to the family, he learns to appreciate and even love the interloper. The droll illustrations, in which Owen and Gary appear to have been cut out and glued into a suburban subdivision, put the new brothers at the center of the action. Despite the cartoon style, emotions are clear. Owen’s eyes, near tears, zero in on Gary’s fearful expression at their first meeting; the two smile at each other while sharing blocks. Gentle, wordless pages explore their developing friendship and invite readers to provide the narration. The only misstep is the use of colored text rather than quotation marks to show speech, which could be an unnecessary impediment for new readers. Nevertheless, a sweet and refreshing spin on the old new-sibling plot. (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25257-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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