An uplifting tale about overcoming fear.


Max encourages Marla to fly by building a kite.

One day Max, an upbeat young child, announces to pal Marla, a little barn owl, they will build a kite to “fly high up in the sky.” Max labors enthusiastically on the kite, but Marla barely participates. “Flying is not her favorite thing.” After adding a sketched self-portrait to the kite, Max takes Marla outside and instructs her to fly high with their kite beside her, as if they were flying together. When Marla ignores Max’s flight instructions, the child realizes she’s afraid and assures her owls were born to fly. Marla’s having none of it. The next day Max coaxes Marla to help rake fallen leaves and find their now-missing kite. Marla, however, stands behind a tree—and on the kite—until a sudden wind sweeps both her and the kite skyward, where she notices Max’s picture, hears her friend encouraging her, and reacts as she was born to. Simple, gently humorous watercolor-and-ink illustrations rendered with expressive black outlines and fluid, pale color washes track Max’s supportive efforts to help Marla overcome her fear of flying in close-up vignettes as well as expansive aerial spreads. Max and Marla’s facial expressions and body language deftly reveal their status as “best friends.” Max is white and appears to live alone with Marla but no parents.

An uplifting tale about overcoming fear. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51566-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)


A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Hee haw.

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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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