A lovely, nuanced collaboration.

ZOLA'S ELEPHANT

When Zola moves into the house next door, a young girl imagines all of the reasons why a friendship between them is impossible.

Spying a giant moving box, the narrator immediately concludes that it contains Zola’s pet elephant. Smelling toast, she imagines Zola merrily feeding her pet. In contrast, Zola is shown in a room piled with drab boxes, despondently taking tea and toast with only her pet bird for company. Each brightly bedecked fantasy about Zola and her pachyderm playmate is a facet of the narrator’s cloaked fear of rejection by the newcomer. Readers are poignantly aware, through Zagarenski’s contrasting gray compositions of Zola’s actual circumstances, that she’s lonely and bored. Finally, the narrator’s lively imaginings provoke both curiosity and courage: “I like stories… / and clubhouses / and playing hide-and-seek / and taking bubble baths / with elephants.” Her own stuffed elephant under one arm, she knocks on Zola’s door, discovering that the huge crate contains—a sofa. “Okay, so maybe Zola doesn’t have an elephant. / But do you know what she does have? // A new friend.” De Sève’s well-paced telling is charmingly abetted by Zagarenski’s layered multimedia paintings. The artist’s Klee-esque colors and signature symbols—stars, crowns, houses, bees, and more—will provide fertile ground for young readers’ own imaginings. They depict both girls as pale-skinned, the narrator with fluffy red hair and Zola with straight, black hair.

A lovely, nuanced collaboration. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-88629-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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