This story will ring true for young readers familiar with playground politics and shifting friendships.

NOT FRIENDS

A charming friendship story with spare, witty text and that packs a visual punch.

Bold lines and simple, earth-tone backgrounds set the stage for two energetic characters to take turns stealing the scene on each double-page spread, hooking readers immediately. The giraffe and bird protagonists can’t seem to get along. They make funny faces at each other, spit, slurp, and smack their lips—all familiar taunting tactics to young readers. These quarrels escalate, even after a brief separation, eventually culminating in a visually impressive, whopping brawl, with limbs and feathers all akimbo. One wonders whether these two will ever find a way to get along. Perfect read-aloud moments on each spread feature onomatopoeic words and delicious sounds. Slight plot missteps include a moment of seeming détente when the giraffe goes to work for the telephone company to bring the bird back only to fight with him once again, an unexpected direction for a seemingly expected story. But: “It’s true that getting along can be difficult.” Things aren’t simply resolved after a rainstorm; these two characters require their own storm to discover that they need each other after all. Vivid, textured illustrations add an extra level of hilarity to the story in a cartoon-style layout that will appeal to pre-readers looking for visual clues for comprehension.

This story will ring true for young readers familiar with playground politics and shifting friendships. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77278-026-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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