A lively and approachable animal tale about creative solutions and friendship.



A narwhal cavorts with different sea creatures in this rhyming picture book.

Nellie, a narwhal, seeks friends and adventure. But her fellow sea creatures rebuke her requests to play. Harper, a whale, tells Nellie she is too small to splash her tail. Bill, a juggling octopus, says: “You’re a nice narwhal. I do think you’re great. / But you have no arms, and you see I have eight.” Tommy, a turtle, remarks that Nellie lacks the shell necessary for playing hide-and-seek. Disappointed, Nellie thinks of new ways the others might enjoy playing with her. She explains to Harper that they can splash their tails regardless of size. When she visits Bill, he uses his extra arms to play a tickling game. Finally, Nellie shares a game idea with Tommy: “You see this seaweed I’ve tied in a loop? You can throw it onto my tusk like a hoop.” The upbeat text asserts: “Nellie and all her friends could now see / It’s alright when you do things differently.” Cullen and Ellis’ message underscoring the celebration of differences is evident, if didactic. Still, it is appropriate for young readers. The images by theillustrators.com.au feature graphic, cartoonlike creatures with large eyes and an appealing backdrop of undersea activity in aquatic hues. The enjoyable book includes “Nellie’s Ocean Trivia,” offering five multiple-choice questions relevant to the story, such as “What kind of animal is a turtle?”

A lively and approachable animal tale about creative solutions and friendship.

Pub Date: May 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-648-84980-3

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Bowker

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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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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