A worthy message is sullied by blatant commercialism.


This rhyming picture book features young squirrels who learn to save, spend, and give back.

Narrated by a wren and using squirrels as stand-ins for humans, this pedantic rhyming story is transparent in its purpose of teaching children the whys and wherefores of prudent (mostly fiscal) living: care for the world, save, spend a little, and give back to those less fortunate. At face value, it’s a worthy endeavor, and it’s thorough—there’s a backmatter “Squirrel Manifesto Guide for Grown-Ups” that gives caregivers four steps to take to cultivate financial knowledge in children (“Tax a little. Spend a little. Save a little. Give a little”). But it’s all undone by the backmatter author bios, which take up a full page and inform readers (or rather their caregivers) that the authors run a financial services company, and in fact, its logo and that of its partner company grace this page. What could have been a solid, if heavy-handed, story about prudent, thoughtful, and charitable living turns into manipulative product placement, using a children’s story to promote a business. Illustrator Zaboski’s illustrations are colorfully busy but vary in neither palette nor presentation, and readers may tire of cutesy squirrels cavorting long before the story ends. Additionally, an illustration depicting the famous Michelangelo Sistine Chapel image but with squirrels in the role of God and Adam is as irrelevant to the story as it is odd to contemplate.

A worthy message is sullied by blatant commercialism. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4166-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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