Lively illustrations don’t make up for a skippable story.

READ REVIEW

FIVE SISTERS

A childless couple encounters magic in their woodland home.

At the story’s beginning, the despondent husband visits an oak he’s grown from a sapling. The kindly tree proffers a branch as thanks for its “gift of life.” From this the man carves five brightly patterned wooden dolls that are imbued with magic. The woman cherishes them as longed-for daughters, and the couple is overjoyed. Their happiness is short-lived, however. Spying a wolf lurking, the man chases it away, but having devoured the dolls, the animal disgorges the pieces and flees. Heartbroken, the man wraps the remains in flowers and places them in the hollow trunk of the magical oak. And oh, what miracles follow! The story, in the style of a traditional folktale, presents themes about the natural world and the joys of children and family but is bogged down by florid, stilted prose that may confound young readers. The sprightly, colorful folkloric illustrations, portraying the white couple wearing Eastern European folk garb, don’t always jibe with the text. The old man’s hair is sometimes black, sometimes gray while the old woman’s is consistently gray. The text is set against colored backgrounds; occasionally, white type is difficult to discern against pale backdrops.

Lively illustrations don’t make up for a skippable story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64170-157-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Familius

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages.

NOT QUITE NARWHAL

Being true to yourself means embracing differences and striding (or paddling) fearlessly into the world.

Emerging from a giant clam, baby unicorn Kelp lives among narwhals, believing he’s just not as good as everyone else at swimming, appreciating a squid dinner, or breathing underwater (he sports a glass diving helmet—with a gasket-encircled hole for his horn). Swept close to shore one day, he spies for the first time an adult unicorn and, struck by the resemblance to himself, totters onto solid ground. The “land narwhals” explain to him that they—and he—are unicorns. Kelp’s blissful new life of learning to do special unicorn things amid sparkles and rainbows is punctuated by sadness over the narwhal friends he left behind. Upon returning to his watery home, Kelp learns that the narwhals knew all along that he was actually a unicorn. Following a brief internal tussle over where he truly belongs, Kelp recognizes that he doesn’t have to be just one thing or another and happily unites his friends at the shoreline. As seen in Sima’s soft, digital illustrations, Kelp is adorable, and she evokes both undersea and aboveground environments artfully. The message is an appealing one that could speak to many family situations relating to multiple identities, but the central dilemma is resolved so quickly and easily that there is little room for emotional engagement.

A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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