Thumbs up for an easy tale of overcoming difference through art and curiosity. (Picture book. 3-7)

ELLIE MAKES A FRIEND

From the Ellie series

In the fourth book of the series, Ellie the elephant observes the new critter at the zoo—Ping, the painting panda.

Not to be confused with pandas of the kung fu sort, Ping brings a friendly black-and-white brightness to the zoo. Her image is full of contradictions that make her unusual to the group of zoo animals. Sharp eyes belie her soft roundness while her wide girth gives way to tiny hands that create graceful and interesting brushwork. She is definitely not a local, and Ellie and her friends cannot understand her language. Ping must pick up her bamboo brush and paint her words (characters that readers of Chinese will readily recognize). While the animals marvel at Ping’s artwork, Ellie begins to feel overshadowed, as the calligraphy is so different from her multicolored paintings. When Ping reaches out to offer Ellie a bamboo brush, the elephant awkwardly declines. “Maybe my paintings aren’t that special,” she whispers to herself. Indeed, the inclusion of Ping’s pictures adds contrast and stylistic interest to Wu’s ebullient watercolors. The gorilla named Gerard once again dispenses wisdom to the sweet elephant, encouraging her to learn more about Ping and her art. Can sharing art be a bridge between two different cultures? By the end, Ping and Ellie seem to think so.

Thumbs up for an easy tale of overcoming difference through art and curiosity. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-01000-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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