A wordless, singing infusion of love and energy into a home.

OVER THE SHOP

In this wordless tale, a chosen family forms.

As a child washes breakfast dishes, their harried grandparent exits the kitchen directly into a general store, revealing that they live in rooms behind their shop. Upstairs, a rental apartment sits empty, rejected by prospective tenants, until a new couple looks past its grubby, run-down state. With elbow grease and enthusiasm, they fix peeling wallpaper, cracking plaster, and cabinets hanging off hinges. They also give the shop’s exterior a new coat of paint and share in running it, easing the grandparent’s workload and spirits. A new family of four is born. Leng uses unbordered panels, sometimes full-page, sometimes small and square, sometimes horizontal. Her ink-and-watercolor paintings are gentle and dreamy, with a real beating heart. Child and grandparent are White; the new family members are an interracial couple, one brown-skinned (long hair, billowy skirt), one Asian-presenting (short hair, jeans). A few carefully placed pride rainbows make queerness explicit: a barely noticeable rainbow belt; a rainbow hat, tiny in a distance shot; and, finally, an unmistakable (and unprecedented for this shop) rainbow flag hanging outside the business at the very end. Careful readers may deduce that the Asian tenant is a transgender man, signaled through an extremely subtle plot point. Poverty and the child’s early loneliness are subtle too, but warmth never is.

A wordless, singing infusion of love and energy into a home. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0147-5

Page Count: 49

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.

WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A MOM

All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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