This picture book’s sweet message doesn’t entirely mitigate its inconsistency.


How can you tell when helping really isn’t helping at all?

Two raccoons on a hike, one large and one small, have a long way to go until they reach their favorite picnic spot, but Little Raccoon has a propensity for getting sidetracked along the way. Luckily, Little Raccoon has Big Raccoon around to keep him on track. When they come across a snail traveling to the other side of a distant “mountain,” Little Raccoon realizes the mountain is a very close, very little stone. Little Raccoon wants to stay and see the snail achieve its goal, but Big Raccoon doesn’t want to wait. Finding a quick solution, Big Raccoon picks up the snail and moves it to the other side of the stone. This causes a big fight between the raccoons, and each storms off on his own. They calm down separately and come back together to arrive at a better way to help the snail achieve its goal. The translated text in this Dutch and Belgian import feels disjointed and is at times hard to follow. Lia’s illustrations use varying perspectives to amplify the contrasting viewpoints of the main characters and to convey the concept of how one thing can seem to be very different depending on who you are and your own experiences. Double-page spreads using soft greens and browns create an inviting outdoor world, but some readers may find the pandalike rendering of the unusually burly raccoons disorienting. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.2-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 26.3% of actual size.)

This picture book’s sweet message doesn’t entirely mitigate its inconsistency. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-60537-637-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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