Should spark budding activists and little bears everywhere.

TIME TO ROAR

There’s a time to speak softly—and a time to speak out.

Sasha the bear is peaceable, and like any good bear, she enjoys a good nap. And what better place for a bear to slumber than a serene, grassy meadow in a vibrant forest? Unfortunately, when “great yellow beasts [tear] into the meadow,” Sasha and the other animals fear their home and tranquility might be destroyed. Can the animals save the day? Sasha offers to roar at them, but the animals decide to try other strategies. The bluebird sings to the beasts, which children will of course recognize as bulldozers and diggers; the rabbit tries to distract them by thumping the ground; the deer tries to lead them away from the forest. All is to no avail—the beasts are making too much noise to pay attention. But Sasha’s anger rises, and she approaches the beasts to roar, “fill[ing] the meadow with her bellow,” driving the beasts away. Cole delivers an environmental tale that is sweet, cheerful, and empowering—if simplistic—offering a meaningful message in just the right language for young listeners and learners. Gibson’s use of color and light to distinguish the quiet from the bold helps Cole’s story when it’s time for Sasha to deliver her big moment.

Should spark budding activists and little bears everywhere. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0370-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL

From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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