Phoebe and her best friend score a touchdown with this groundbreaking pairing of a sports-minded girl and her dog.

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A perky Australian labradoodle narrates this sports-themed tale describing the dog’s interest in playing soccer and football with a group of neighborhood children.

The story is written by a long-term ESPN host and his wife, using their own dog and family as models for the main characters. The dog, Phoebe, has fluffy, white fur and an unusual, bright pink tail. She considers herself an integral part of the human family, referring to family members as Mom, Dad, sister, and brother. (The family has light skin, and the young daughter wears red glasses.) At the neighborhood playground Phoebe wants to join in the day’s informal pickup games of soccer and football with a group of children, including her “sister.” The dog knows the basic rules of the games from watching her owner on his sports show on TV, so she jumps right in and plays, scoring goals and touchdowns (of sorts). Phoebe helps the little girl feel better when she falls down, and a happy conclusion ensues with kids and dog tired after their afternoon playing outside. While the story is a little forced, positive attributes include a female dog and a female main character (a rare and welcome pairing), a group of kids of different ethnicities playing unorganized ball games outdoors without adults directing the action, and a plot with a dog enjoying a taste of two popular sports. Bold digitally produced illustrations use a variety of perspectives and lots of motion, with speech balloons and sound effects providing additional interest.

Phoebe and her best friend score a touchdown with this groundbreaking pairing of a sports-minded girl and her dog. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8931-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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