An unusual and wonderful gem.

MEMOIRS OF A TORTOISE

A tortoise reflects on a year in its life.

Oliver is an 80-year-old tortoise and lives in a sunny, flowery, tropical-looking landscape with his “pet” White human, Ike, who’s also 80. The two are dear friends, and Oliver reflects on how he and Ike love each other and how they have their comfortable daily routines (“Oliver, fetch” says Ike, and they both laugh). But one day Ike is gone, and Oliver, saddened, makes the trek (10 gardens away) to talk with his 137-year-old mother. This gentle, poignant, and humorous story presents the themes of friendship, loss, and appreciation of life’s moments from refreshingly different perspectives: narratively from Oliver’s point of view and visually from the low vantage afforded by Oliver’s stature. Both work wonderfully. The story is both heart-rending and uplifting as Oliver leads readers on a tortoise-speed journey of his quiet moments in the garden and his graceful acceptance of change. It’s also terribly funny in its memoir aspect (“A banana for dinner”) and in the speed (or lack thereof) of Oliver’s journey to see his mother. Bowers’ vibrantly colorful illustrations bring the Florida-like landscape to life with full-bleed single-page– and double-page–spread illustrations while the choice to use an illustrative perspective mainly from Oliver’s close-to-the-ground view gives readers a strong sense of being right there.

An unusual and wonderful gem. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-53411-019-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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