A neatly pitched lesson for the middle child.

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MIDDLE BEAR

A little bear discovers the benefits of being the middle one when his medium size works to his advantage.

The “second of three brothers,” middle bear’s neither largest nor smallest, tallest nor shortest, strongest nor weakest. Even his clothes and toys are “middle-sized.” He eats and drinks middle-sized portions and goes to bed “before his older brother and after his younger.” Often sad, the middle bear does not “want to be the middle one” until the day his sick parents send their three sons on a quest to a high mountain for willow bark. Reaching a partially frozen river, the oldest brother’s too heavy and the youngest brother’s too little to cross the ice. Just the right size, the middle bear successfully traverses the river, scales the mountain, and returns with the willow bark. Repeated use of “middle-sized” emphasizes the disadvantages as well as the advantages of being a middle child. Cut-paper collage, pencil, and mixed-media illustrations rely on a subdued palette of black, gray, and tan to convey the blandness of the middle bear’s life. Drawn with childlike simplicity, the brother bears seem visually identical (except for size) and usually appear together until the middle bear happily takes center page alone, suddenly aware “he could do all sorts of things.”

A neatly pitched lesson for the middle child. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77138-842-9

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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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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