A gentle, silly picture book about balancing fun and responsibility.

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THE BRUCE SWAP

From the Mother Bruce series

Bruce the bear is not fun.

He doesn’t like biking fast or making sculptures out of yogurt or dismounting from branches like an Olympic gymnast. And he definitely doesn’t like fun visits from friends and family. Bruce’s family loves Bruce, but they wish he were just a little more fun—that is, until they meet Bruce’s cousin Kevin, who looks just like Bruce (except for Bruce’s trademark scowl) but acts nothing like him. Bruce doesn’t know about Kevin’s visit, so he isn’t home when Kevin arrives. When Kevin shows up and introduces himself to Bruce’s immediate family—which consists of a motley crew of earnest mice and forever-hungry geese—he stages a candy fight, orders 26 pizzas, and turns the house into an indoor pool. When a minibus full of Kevin’s friends pulls up in front of the house, the fun goes a little too far. The mice and geese begin to miss their beloved, unfun bear—and to appreciate the need to be unfun, at least some of the time. The story’s textured, cartoon illustrations employ panels, speech bubbles, and an endearingly drawn cast of woodland characters to build humor into unexpected moments and to give the plot momentum. The dialogue is cheeky and conversational, deftly tucking clever jokes for adults between lines that clearly appeal to children. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-24-inch double-page spreads viewed at 41.7% of actual size.)

A gentle, silly picture book about balancing fun and responsibility. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02856-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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