Another positive title for the anti-bullying shelf.

SWING

New friendships form when the preconceived notions of various characters are broken down through play.

At recess, four anthropomorphic letters, each a different shape and color, head for the swings. L arrives first and is asked by V to play. With overt disdain, L rejects V for living on the wrong side of the alphabet. When E makes the same polite request, V refuses to play with vowels. The chain of bigotry continues as O, who arrives last, is spurned because it is round. Arguing ensues until O suggests they just swing. They pump and go higher and faster, and the joy of swinging takes over, and that fun becomes a shared experience. When the letters land, they are now in a new place—literally and figuratively—as they have transformed into the word “LOVE.” True to his past work, Hall uses digital illustrations full of simplified graphic shapes made to look like cut paper to explore sophisticated concepts. Done in a mostly primary palette, the letters with their block appendages are effective and charming, and thoughtful compositions help convey their shifting emotional states. As Kathryn Otoshi does in One (2008), Hall uses personified shapes to show both conflict based on outward appearances and assumptions and resolution. Teachers will appreciate it as a conversation starter when discussing how to move beyond stereotypes.

Another positive title for the anti-bullying shelf. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286617-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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