Children will cheer for Lulu and learn the importance of being themselves.

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VERY LULU

THE (MOSTLY) TRUE STORY OF A TRAINING SCHOOL DROPOUT

Lulu’s a fun-loving dog who flunks out of police-dog school only to discover that being herself is the greatest achievement of all.

Though Lulu is shunted into police-dog training because of her good sniffing skills, it quickly becomes clear that she is not a good fit for the work, despite well-meaning intervention and persistent effort. The “free spirit” is simply unable to perform the required doggy tasks. Lulu’s true place is in a home with a family—her handler’s, as it turns out. Throughout, the author is careful not to refer to the playful, happy Lulu in the pejorative—and this may seem a small point at first, but it is really the most important part of this joyful story. The one mention of “failure” is handled carefully: When the police-dog trainer exhorts Lulu to “be more like other dogs? You don’t want to fail, do you?” Lulu despairs, as she “had not known a dog could fail at anything.” Children weighed down by the conformist pressures of school, sports, and other activities will see that there are other ways to find one’s place in the world. The artwork is bright and dynamic, with lots of frenetic doggy movement; Lulu’s handler and her family present black; the police-dog trainer presents white.

Children will cheer for Lulu and learn the importance of being themselves. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7321-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Hee haw.

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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