A sweet salute to talents that come in many guises.



A brown-throated sloth tries on the mantle of superhero.

Superheroes—faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Or, should the superhero happen to be a sloth, able to come to the rescue—eventually. Especially when the sloth is a “very ordinary” specimen of that slow-moving species. But sloths can dream, too, and after this one discovers a comic book left behind by some hikers, he is inspired to tie on a cape and get ready for action. In the jungle, with its giant ferns, blue tree trunks, and numerous animals, it isn’t long before there is a cry for help. An anteater is making off with a toucan’s mangoes. Sloth rushes over, but by the time he gets there the anteater is long gone with all the mangoes. “Oh bother!” moans the sloth. It turns out that the anteater is purloining all the animals’ mangoes, so they turn to their superhero friend to come to their aid. Not one to be deterred by a little gum in the superhero works, the sloth turns to its strength: slow motion. To get past all the guards at the anteater’s fort, the sloth pretends to be a tree, moving so slowly no one notices his approach. Voilà, the dastardly anteater and his minions are foiled. A two-page spread of sloth facts finishes the book. The blue-caped sloth is a stitch as he inches across the page and plummets from the occasional tree.

A sweet salute to talents that come in many guises. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-5511-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...


Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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