A thoroughly charming take on sibling relationships.

THE BEAR IN MY FAMILY

A young boy describes the bear that lives with him.

The story opens on the face of an unhappy kid who lives with a bear. The protagonist goes on to show a diagram of the bear, who has “sharp teeth,” “mean eyes,” and “strong arms.” The bear is loud, roaring when the narrator is trying to sleep. The bear is “messy,” “bossy,” and “always hungry,” even stealing the narrator’s food. The bear is “strong” and plays a little rough. The kid tries to tell Mom, but she dismisses the protagonist, suggesting some outside play in the park. At the park, three bigger kids start bullying the narrator, who suddenly wishes there were a bear to help out—and there’s the bear! After this rescue, the kid realizes that sometimes having a bear can be pretty great. It seems having a bear in the family is a lot like having an older sibling. Tatsukawa writes and illustrates a metaphorical but completely accessible tale for any child who has an older sibling. Displayed in a combination of printed text and hand-lettered speech bubbles, the writing is simple and straightforward. The illustrations have a textured-paper look, with cute details, such as the protagonist’s bee sweater and the lion, snake, and shark sweaters the bullies wear. Narrator and family present Asian, and the other kids have a variety of skin tones and hair colors.

A thoroughly charming take on sibling relationships. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55582-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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