While the bullies too easily become allies, this fanciful tale’s heroic dog will capture hearts.

ROMEO AND THE BEASTLY BULLIES

A dachshund faces off against a human burglar in this picture book about making enemies into friends.

Romeo, a small, brown dachshund, just wants some friends. But Big Boy, Chap, and Miss Strudel, a St. Bernard, black Lab, and poodle, respectively, are only interested in making fun of their tiny neighbor. “You would make a great speed bump!” Chap taunts. Despite their meanness, Romeo wants to win them over, offering to share treats. But the bullies are too busy plotting to foil a local burglar to pay attention to Romeo. When Romeo plays a vital role in defeating the prowler, the bullies admit that he is a big dog, despite his size. Speyer’s “Ugly Duckling”–like plot, in which the outcast proves his worth, undercuts the difficulties of dealing with bullies—especially those who torment their victims out of boredom, such as these pooches. But Romeo’s bravery and resilience shine through, and his triumph over the burglar (and his seizure of the thief’s boot as a trophy and favorite toy) is sure to make young readers smile. The author’s paintings showcase the size differences between the cheerful Romeo and the huge neighborhood dogs. Her whimsical illustrations depict Romeo’s self-improvement dreams. The story presents a clear moral: believe in yourself. Speyer’s word choices (strolled, dachshund, wiener dog) may be too advanced for newly independent readers, making this a better choice for the lap crowd.

While the bullies too easily become allies, this fanciful tale’s heroic dog will capture hearts.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-09-801956-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christian Faith Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2021

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

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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