Water-pollution discussion requires an extra step beyond the reading, but this a good place to start.

BENJAMIN'S BLUE FEET

A bird learns self-acceptance in this tale with a concealed environmental message.

Benjamin, a blue-footed booby, loves to go treasure hunting on his beach. He tugs a long, red “string-stretch-it” (an elastic band) out of the sand, and a round “hmmm…a…hole-thing-um” (a silicon wristband) is a delightful find. But when he finds a shiny “twink-um-doodle” (a mirror), he declares that to be the best treasure of all. He can see himself reflected for the first time! Unfortunately, he doesn’t like what he sees. His beak is too long, his wings are too wide, and his feet are too blue. Benjamin decides to use his treasures to change how he looks. He squeezes into the “hole-thing-um,” ties the “string-stretch-its” around his feet, and fastens other treasures all around. But now, he can hardly move. Luckily, he breaks free and becomes thankful for his original features. Macartney never explicitly mentions the word “trash,” but it is clear to eagle-eyed observers what Benjamin’s “treasures” really are. Benjamin’s quirky names for all of the items he finds add levity, but many other creatures on the island have heavy-lidded stares, making them look sleepy or ill (except when they are laughing at Benjamin).  (Editor’s note: An author’s note about ocean trash has been appended to the finished book.)

Water-pollution discussion requires an extra step beyond the reading, but this a good place to start. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77278-111-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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