Congratulatory cheerleading and wise whimsy to celebrate accomplishments of all sorts.


From the Hello!Lucky series

Go ahead. Judge this book by the cover.

On a softly psychedelic background, a cartoon-style tiger greets readers with a wonderfully cheesy smile that is every orthodontist’s dream. A sticker reads: “The PERFECT gift for every milestone!” In text uniformly presented in the second person, each spread inside gives readers a boost. “Because you’re / FIERCE. / A rising star! / You’ve earned your stripes. / You’ve come so far! / No matter who you choose / to be, you’ll be / TERR-IFIC. / Wait and see!” (Even though the text is in verse, it’s not always laid out accordingly.) Readers are encouraged to “find your place” and to “do your part” but also to “be humble,” to “land on your paws” in times of trouble, to help new friends, and to “use your strength to shine a light / on what is wrong and what is RIGHT.” A white tiger with multicolored stripes encourages further growth: “To your spirit you’ll stay true, never sorry to be you. / But CHANGE YOUR STRIPES / if they don’t suit you. / Dare to swap them—we’ll salute you.” Most spreads contain a complete four-line rhythmic and rhyming stanza in second person. A variety of other animals join the tiger in its shining moment. The book’s open commercial appeal doesn’t mask its effectiveness.

Congratulatory cheerleading and wise whimsy to celebrate accomplishments of all sorts. (Picture book. 4-8, all ages)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3964-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: abramsappleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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As insubstantial as hot air.


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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