FRED STAYS WITH ME!

The word “divorce” is never uttered in this charming story of a young girl who sometimes lives with her mom, and sometimes with her dad, but who never leaves the side of her affable dog Fred. The differences in the girl’s two homes are presented matter-of-factly, as is the common denominator of both household experiences—mom and dad alike are frustrated with Fred by day’s end: “What am I going to do with this dog?” each parent asks, as the dog barks at mom’s neighbor’s poodle or eats dad’s socks. When both parents insist the dog can’t stay, the little girl, standing in a literal and figurative spotlight, states defiantly, “Excuse me . . . Fred doesn’t stay with either of you. Fred stays with ME!” All ends well, as the families devise ways to manage Fred’s canine idiosyncrasies. It all sounds simple enough, but Coffelt offers a fresh, villain-free look at a split family—and at a girl who finds strength, love and reassuring consistency in the dear pooch who is all her own. Tusa’s winning, soft-edged, autumnally hued watercolor illustrations perfectly complement the quiet story, infusing humor and chaos into the more understated text. A gem. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-88269-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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