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Courageous Gilbert the Groundhog

A great resource for an elementary school counselor’s office to have on hand for kids who need help managing their emotional...

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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A shy groundhog learns how to get in touch with his feelings and stand up for himself in this kids’ book by debut author McCarthy and illustrator Dettman.

Gilbert the Groundhog loves music and enjoys collecting things, but when it comes to interacting with his peers, he gets nervous—especially when the sharp-toothed and -tongued Peter Opossum teases him. When no one offers Gilbert a seat in the school cafeteria, he runs across the playground to an old oak. Luckily for him, this particular oak is a wise old tree who offers him advice on how to feel better. After the tree leads Gilbert in a deep-breathing exercise with an awkward mnemonic (“Breathe-in-for-four. Hold-this-heaven-till-count-of-seven. Exhale-for-eight-and-you-will-feel-great!”), the groundhog finds that he does feel better. But that technique isn’t all he needs to overcome his troubles at school: when his peers mock him for stumbling through his book report, for example, the deep breathing doesn’t help. The tree gently coaches him to listen to his body: “You are feeling your emotions….They can be in your heart, in your stomach, or anywhere in your body.” But just recognizing emotions isn’t the final step; the old oak tree advises Gilbert to practice expressing them, too, so that he can manage them when troubles arise. That practice turns out to be the key to the groundhog’s becoming comfortable with himself, making friends, and standing up to a bully. There’s plenty of material available out there for kids about dealing with bullies, but this title goes beyond that particular situation to offer a guide to handling uncontrollable feelings by breathing, feeling, and practicing. Such guidance offers young and middle-grade readers a fantastic resource for learning how to cope with their problems at school or at home. McCarthy’s use of the sympathetic Gilbert and his wise oak mentor makes the scenario feel detached enough from the real world to be comfortable for children struggling in their own lives. The illustrations of the anthropomorphized characters are charming, and the bullies are given appropriate menace without being too scary. Although the text is dense, especially for beginning readers, the message is encouraging and accessible.

A great resource for an elementary school counselor’s office to have on hand for kids who need help managing their emotional responses.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9862304-1-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Blue Stone Healing Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016


The Buehners retell the old familiar tale with a jump-roping, rhyme-spouting Goldilocks. When their porridge proves to be too hot to eat, the bear family goes for a stroll. Meanwhile, Goldilocks comes knocking to find a jump-roping friend. This Goldilocks does not simply test out the chairs: “Big chair, middle chair, little chair, too, / Somebody’s here to bounce on you!” And so continues the old favorite, interspersed with Goldilocks’s jump-rope verse. When she escapes through the bedroom window, none of the characters are sure what sort of creature they have just encountered. The Buehner’s homey illustrations perfectly capture the facial expressions of the characters, and lend a particular kind of mischief to Goldilocks. Readers may miss the message on the copyright page, but hidden within each picture are three creatures, instantly adding challenge and appeal. Cute, but there’s not quite enough new here to make it a must. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8037-2939-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007


The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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