Bravo for a courageous boy’s achievement.


A boy defies his father’s warning and rescues a whale tangled in their sole fishing net.

The story opens with two clear viewpoints. Papa is distressed their only source of income is in jeopardy; Abelardo is very concerned for the whale’s survival. He remembers a time when he had been trapped in a net and almost drowned before his father saved him. Papa leaves to borrow another net, and Abelardo, alone on the beach, takes their outboard-equipped panga out to the ensnared whale, dives in, and bravely works with a small knife to cut the tough plastic netting, finally freeing the animal. The boy’s daring determination and his emotional and physical struggles are evident in the succinct, first-person narrative, which builds urgency, fear, and suspense to a one-word crescendo—“…BREATHE!”—when Abelardo and whale must surface to do so. Realistic pen-and-ink–and-acrylic paintings alternate between sunny, glimmering sea and beach scenes and dark underwater scenes done in aquas and grays. The drama is vividly shown, paralleling the boy’s passion with the whale’s defeated resignation in a double-page image of the boy’s grim face next to and as large as the gray whale’s sad eye. The inspiring, humane adventure joyfully concludes with Gerstein’s pinnacle scenes of the whale breaching joyfully. A Latin American coastal setting is indicated with naming conventions; Abelardo and his father have brown skin and straight, black hair.

Bravo for a courageous boy’s achievement. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-505-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Hee haw.

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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