This story about neighborliness and community will resonate, though it doesn’t go as far as it needs to.


When some mischievous (and none-too-neat) young bunnies and their older sister, Lettuce, hear the news that rats are moving into their apartment building, they are excited, but none of the other animal tenants share their joy.

The others—a sheep, two pigs, polar bears, a couple of yaks, and Granny Goat—voice their objections to rats in terms most adult humans would use as well: “RATS! BIG, DIRTY, SMELLY, THIEVING, DANGEROUS RATS [who will] bury us alive in RAT POOP!” When the assembled tenants go to meet the titular “new neighbors” despite their escalating fears, the animals are very pleasantly surprised. Bertram and Natasha, each a “small, tidy, friendly-looking rat,” invite them all in for “homemade cake.” Bertram, the consummate host, manages to politely put his guests at ease by saying: “We know that rats aren’t everyone’s idea of the perfect neighbors!” The animals look properly abashed. This timely story about prejudice toward newcomers preceded by bad press is leavened by its comic, full-bleed, double-page illustrations that are full of action, speech balloons, and humorously dressed animals (yaks in bathrobes, Bertram in a natty bow tie and vest) as well as text that employs a cumulative effect as the animals join the parade downstairs. It is unfortunate that Bertram actually apologizes about moving in and that the two rats are so comically vanilla in their aspects—none of the animal bigots must overcome their unreasonable fear of difference.

This story about neighborliness and community will resonate, though it doesn’t go as far as it needs to. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-8996-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character


From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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