THE SQUIRREL MANIFESTO

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. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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A BIKE LIKE SERGIO'S

Embedded in this heartwarming story of doing the right thing is a deft examination of the pressures of income inequality on...

Continuing from their acclaimed Those Shoes (2007), Boelts and Jones entwine conversations on money, motives, and morality.

This second collaboration between author and illustrator is set within an urban multicultural streetscape, where brown-skinned protagonist Ruben wishes for a bike like his friend Sergio’s. He wishes, but Ruben knows too well the pressure his family feels to prioritize the essentials. While Sergio buys a pack of football cards from Sonny’s Grocery, Ruben must buy the bread his mom wants. A familiar lady drops what Ruben believes to be a $1 bill, but picking it up, to his shock, he discovers $100! Is this Ruben’s chance to get himself the bike of his dreams? In a fateful twist, Ruben loses track of the C-note and is sent into a panic. After finally finding it nestled deep in a backpack pocket, he comes to a sense of moral clarity: “I remember how it was for me when that money that was hers—then mine—was gone.” When he returns the bill to her, the lady offers Ruben her blessing, leaving him with double-dipped emotions, “happy and mixed up, full and empty.” Readers will be pleased that there’s no reward for Ruben’s choice of integrity beyond the priceless love and warmth of a family’s care and pride.

Embedded in this heartwarming story of doing the right thing is a deft examination of the pressures of income inequality on children. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6649-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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