A story whose marriage-plot arc may not feel relevant to young readers and whose illustrations exclude interracial families...

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PAUL AND HIS UKULELE

Paul, a young, anthropomorphic fox, is given a ukulele as a present, which leads to life adventures.

After Paul’s parents give him a ukulele for his birthday, he learns to play and practices regularly. As the years go by, he becomes accomplished and eventually feels the urge to travel. He and his ukulele visit cities, the countryside, and small towns, where he plays and meets others. When his ukulele breaks (and is fixed) he decides to settle down and open up a music shop. It’s a classic journey story, but the ending—a promise of romantic attachment—may be over the heads or interests of young readers. Kocsmiersky’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations have a fine sense of light that enhances her detailed cityscapes, interiors, and landscapes. She depicts all the story’s characters as anthropomorphic animals; however only their heads and tails are animallike. Torsos, limbs, proportions, and clothing are human, including fingers and opposable thumbs. The look is a bit unsettling, like humans with animal trophy-heads on their shoulders. It’s also disconcerting that, while the illustrations feature a diversity of anthropomorphic animal characters, couples and families are shown only as of the same species; and in fact, Paul’s love interest at the end of the story is, indeed, another (female) fox.

A story whose marriage-plot arc may not feel relevant to young readers and whose illustrations exclude interracial families and same-sex parents. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9990249-2-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Ripple Grove

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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