Encourages children to feel brave, to try, and to believe they can soar.

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MEL FELL

Mel knows it’s her day to fly.

A stout kingfisher fledgling marches to the end of her branch, jumps, flips, spreads her wings—and falls. Down she goes, beak-first, eyes shut, smiling broadly. This lovely book’s vertical format prompts readers to look longitudinally at each spread, up and down the trunk of a tall tree, following Mel’s descent. The unusual orientation, coupled with the gripping idea of first flight (or fall!), inspires both excitement and anxiety. Muted pastel illustrations set against ample, bleached-out white space convey craggy bark, Mel’s soft blue and russet feathers, and clusters of oval celadon leaves. Mel plummets, and animals (squirrels, bees, ants—even a spider and a realllllly slow-moving snail) scramble to help, adding humor. She crashes (into water!), and readers hold their breath, turning the book to follow her new trajectory. When Mel turns and shoots out of the water holding a fish in her beak, past her animal friends on the tree trunk, they will cheer. A note on kingfishers appears in the backmatter above a delightful picture of Mel nudging one of her siblings toward the end of the branch. Young people, who find themselves on the precipice of new activities, routines, schools, and challenges so frequently, will savor this little kingfisher’s success and perhaps feel they can right themselves the next time they fall into a downward spiral.

Encourages children to feel brave, to try, and to believe they can soar. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287801-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Celebrate a truly accepting multicultural character.

LOLA LEVINE IS NOT MEAN!

From the Lola Levine series , Vol. 1

Brown introduces a smart, young protagonist with a multicultural background in this series opener for chapter-book readers.

Second-grader Lola Levine is half-Peruvian and half-Jewish; she is a skilled soccer player, a persuasive writer, and aspires to own a cat in the near future should her parents concede. During a friendly recess soccer match, Lola, playing goalie, defends an incoming ball by coming out of her box and accidentally fouls a classmate. And so Lola acquires the rhyming nickname Mean Lola Levine. Through Lola’s first-person narration, readers see clearly how her savvy and creativity come from her family: Dad, who paints, Mom, who writes, and a fireball younger brother. She also wears her bicultural identity easily. In her narration, her letters to her friends, and dialogue, Lola easily inserts such words as diario, tía, bubbe, and shalom. For dinner, the family eats matzo ball soup, Peruvian chicken, and flan. Interspersed throughout the story are references to all-star soccer athletes, from Brazilian master Pelé to Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, and David Beckham. Dominguez’s black-and-white illustrations are cheery and appealing, depicting a long-haired Caucasian father and dark-skinned, black-haired mother. Typefaces that emulate penmanship appropriately differ from character to character: Lola’s is small and clean, her mother’s is tall and slanted, while Juan’s, the injured classmate, is sloppy and lacks finesse.

Celebrate a truly accepting multicultural character. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-25836-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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