Good friends neatly show that differences don’t matter.


From the Jasper & Ollie series

Friends who seem to be opposites find common ground.

Lightning-quick, impulsive Jasper, a fox, and his gentle, deliberately paced pal, Ollie, a sloth, head to the pool—or, rather, overbearing Jasper prevails on him to go. Jasper races ahead, oblivious that Ollie hasn’t yet left the house. When Jasper arrives and fails to see Ollie, the fox is convinced Ollie’s already there and sets out on a breakneck, madcap search to find him. In the end, the friends catch up with each other and make new plans. The story is thin and unoriginal, and some youngsters may wonder why, given that these guys are besties, Jasper is unaware of their speed differences and that Ollie couldn’t have gotten to the pool first. However, the quirky, comically energetic illustrations are the real draw and should elicit giggles. At the outset, a spread divided into three horizontal strips that include dashed lines traces Jasper’s frenzied scramble to win the race-that-never-was. Numerous subsequent spreads set at the pool are split horizontally so that the larger, upper portions depict Jasper’s frantic pursuit, while contrasting, comic-strip–like lower segments show Ollie leisurely ambling toward the pool, making stops on the way. Visual and tactile learners will savor the dashed lines incorporated into those illustrations of Jasper, too, enabling them to trace his breathlessly overwrought search as he recklessly wreaks havoc everywhere.

Good friends neatly show that differences don’t matter. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-645214

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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