From the I Can Read! Comics series

Fish and Sun become fast friends in this Level 1 entry in the I Can Read! Comics series.

Fish, small and lavender-hued, is bored. It’s too dark and cold in Fish’s watery abode, so Fish tells Mom: “I’m going out.” Unfortunately, it’s “dark and cold and boring” at the surface too—that is, until Fish sees a yellow orb with long, spindly rays rise in the sky. “I’m Sun,” the friendly presence says, and a friendship is born. When Sun turns red and sets, Fish mourns the loss but happily reunites with Sun the next day after the clouds part. Young readers will identify with Fish’s extreme mood swings: ennui followed by elation followed by heartache (“I am afraid I will never see my friend Sun again”)—and joy once again when the pair reunites. Compositions are tightly focused and uncluttered; lines are simple and clean; and details delight, such as when Fish sleeps on a pillow at the bottom of the ocean and—after Sun asks, “Do you know any tricks?”—gleefully spits water. The book nearly sparkles with color: The sun-dappled palette is one of warm, eye-catching, and elegant pastel shades. The book’s dialogue is set in bold black text in clean, white speech balloons. Level 1 comics in this series promise “simple stories for shared reading,” and those adults sharing this one can expect requests for rereads. A tutorial on reading comics precedes the story.

A captivating new duo. (Graphic early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307664-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.


If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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