An ordinary story is given a spark of life by the inclusion of an empathetic little brother with autism.

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BENJI, THE BAD DAY, AND ME

Who wins in a competition for attention with a sibling with autism? It’s not a “who,” it’s a “what”: brotherly love.

It seems the universe is conspiring against Sammy. He is fed up with trouble at school, a pizza shortage, a missed bus stop, and rain, and he gets home only to be ignored because Benji is having a bad day and has retreated to his box. Sammy reminisces about better times and blueberry smoothies, but when he starts crying over spilled milk, Benji leaves his cardboard sanctuary to snuggle his brother in a blue-blanket burrito, demonstrating that love is a never-fail remedy for bad days. Vibrant, full-color illustrations in acrylic and colored pencil, punctuated by his monochromatic memories, accompany the first-person narrative. On face-to-face wordless pages, Min lets readers see a woeful Sammy through the narrow window in Benji’s box, ensuring Benji’s agency. Giving order and structure to what can be an unpredictable world, the wooden inhabitants of Benji’s block city march across the title page, scatter about the story, and finally line up in columns and rows on the back of the book jacket. Pla selects a common theme, the power of familial love to overcome adversity, and deftly moves the challenges of autism to a supporting detail rather than a distracting focus in this simple picture book. That Min depicts this family as people of color further broadens this story’s inclusive reach.

An ordinary story is given a spark of life by the inclusion of an empathetic little brother with autism. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62014-345-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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