Children will cheer for Lulu and learn the importance of being themselves.

VERY LULU

THE (MOSTLY) TRUE STORY OF A TRAINING SCHOOL DROPOUT

Lulu’s a fun-loving dog who flunks out of police-dog school only to discover that being herself is the greatest achievement of all.

Though Lulu is shunted into police-dog training because of her good sniffing skills, it quickly becomes clear that she is not a good fit for the work, despite well-meaning intervention and persistent effort. The “free spirit” is simply unable to perform the required doggy tasks. Lulu’s true place is in a home with a family—her handler’s, as it turns out. Throughout, the author is careful not to refer to the playful, happy Lulu in the pejorative—and this may seem a small point at first, but it is really the most important part of this joyful story. The one mention of “failure” is handled carefully: When the police-dog trainer exhorts Lulu to “be more like other dogs? You don’t want to fail, do you?” Lulu despairs, as she “had not known a dog could fail at anything.” Children weighed down by the conformist pressures of school, sports, and other activities will see that there are other ways to find one’s place in the world. The artwork is bright and dynamic, with lots of frenetic doggy movement; Lulu’s handler and her family present black; the police-dog trainer presents white.

Children will cheer for Lulu and learn the importance of being themselves. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7321-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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