Despite good intentions, this story only makes xenophobia seem palatable.

READ REVIEW

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT

A young boy weighs the pros and cons of building a wall in his bedroom.

In letters addressed “Dear Mr. President,” Sam describes his grievances with his big brother, “who exactly fits your description of an undesirable person”: He uses his cellphone at night “even though he isn’t allowed,” and “it keeps me awake.” His classmates are also talking about the president’s wall. “There didn’t seem to be many kids who thought it was a good idea,” but Sam whines that “They obviously don’t know what it’s like to share a room.” Subdued line-and-wash paintings show Sam learning about the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China while his family tries to broker peace. Recurrent images of extraterrestrials indicate the unspoken context of undocumented immigrants. Dad says that “communication and negotiation are always preferable to separation” (implying, perhaps, that the concentration camps on the U.S.–Mexico border are a result of poor communication?), and the dispute is eventually settled when the big brother comforts Sam after a nightmare. While some children may see in Trump’s fascist blatherings a solution to their own domestic problems, the kindly, bemused tone this text, a New Zealand import via Canada, takes toward a humanitarian crisis feels jarringly inappropriate.

Despite good intentions, this story only makes xenophobia seem palatable. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77147-391-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced.

BIRD HUGS

Watch out, Hug Machine (Scott Campbell, 2014), there’s another long-limbed lover of squeezes in the mix.

Bernard, a tiny, lavender bird, dejectedly sits atop a high branch. His wings droop all the way to the ground. Heaving a sigh, his disappointment is palpable. With insufferably long wings, he has never been able to fly. All of his friends easily took to the skies, leaving him behind. There is nothing left to do but sit in his tree and feel sorry for himself. Adamson amusingly shows readers the passage of time with a sequence of vignettes of Bernard sitting in the rain, the dark, and amid a cloud of paper wasps—never moving from his branch. Then one day he hears a sob and finds a tearful orangutan. Without even thinking, Bernard wraps his long wings around the great ape. The orangutan is comforted! Bernard has finally found the best use of his wings. In gentle watercolor and pencil sketches, Adamson slips in many moments of humor. Animals come from all over to tell Bernard their troubles (a lion muses that it is “lonely at the top of the food chain” while a bat worries about missing out on fun during the day). Three vertical spreads that necessitate a 90-degree rotation add to the fun.

Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9271-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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