Persistence pays off seems to be the message in this bracingly un-Valentine–ish love story.



Children get their first lesson in unrequited love reading the letters between lovelorn Ox and self-centered Gazelle.

To say that Gazelle is a narcissist is putting it mildly. And Ox? Well, ever heard the saying big, dumb ox? Ox, depicted in a white shirt with trousers held up by suspenders, begins the exchange by expressing his admiration for Gazelle and her graceful movements. A turn of the page reveals his correspondent’s answer: a form letter and signed glossy stuffed in an envelope by her assistant while Gazelle, clad in a flapper-style dress, lies on a chaise longue gazing in a mirror. Ox doesn’t see it as a form letter, though, and thanks her for responding personally. Her reply? The same form letter, which Ox takes as a sign of her tidy mind. The letters degrade from there, going from a discussion of Gazelle’s faults (or lack thereof) to a letter stating outright that she could never love a “smelly thing…an animal that is…so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable.” Ox loves her even more for admitting this fault to him. This frustrates Gazelle, who rips his picture to shreds. But the next page shows the start of a letter to him; she sits under his pieced-back-together picture, her heart seemingly softened. Campbell’s watercolor-and–colored pencil artwork uses old-fashioned, muted tones, patterns, and background details. Gazelle is elegant and haughty. Ox is moony and down-to-earth.

Persistence pays off seems to be the message in this bracingly un-Valentine–ish love story. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-288-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development.


From the McKellar Math series

A child who insists on having MORE of everything gets MORE than she can handle.

Demanding young Moxie Jo is delighted to discover that pushing the button on a stick she finds in the yard doubles anything she points to. Unfortunately, when she points to her puppy, Max, the button gets stuck—and in no time one dog has become two, then four, then eight, then….Readers familiar with the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” or Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona will know how this is going to go, and Masse obliges by filling up succeeding scenes with burgeoning hordes of cute yellow puppies enthusiastically making a shambles of the house. McKellar puts an arithmetical spin on the crisis—“The number of pups exponentially grew: / They each multiplied times a factor of 2!” When clumsy little brother Clark inadvertently intervenes, Moxie Jo is left wiser about her real needs (mostly). An appended section uses lemons to show how exponential doubling quickly leads to really big numbers. Stuart J. Murphy’s Double the Ducks (illustrated by Valeria Petrone, 2002) in the MathStart series explores doubling from a broader perspective and includes more backmatter to encourage further study, but this outing adds some messaging: Moxie Jo’s change of perspective may give children with sharing issues food for thought. She and her family are White; her friends are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-101-93386-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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