While it won’t find much of an audience beyond already interested tourists, this guide to Milwaukee is a cut above its ilk,...


From the Our City Adventures series

An unexpectedly attractive addition to the standard picture-book travel guide.

Lulu, a young fox, and her penguin companion, Pufferson, one day receive a letter from her aunt Fancy. Sending them tickets for the trip, her aunt encourages the duo to take the ferry to Milwaukee to join Lulu’s cousin Rocky for a three-day sightseeing extravaganza. Staying at the real-life, ritzy Pfister Hotel, the three waste no time seeing the sights. For exercise they rent canoes, ascend a lighthouse, and rent a surrey bike. Food consists of fried cheese curds, a fish fry, and water from the local “bubblers.” The three check out the Milwaukee Art Museum, the lakefront, a statue of Fonzie, and even a brewery (what it brews goes unmentioned, and Lulu, Rocky, and Pufferson do not seem to imbibe). While the book does not aim beyond its stated purpose of introducing kids to Milwaukee’s attractions, the art and writing set it apart from most tourism texts. Graef’s delicate and detailed illustrations are as comfortable replicating a Chihuly as they are portraying a polka band, and the all-animal cast is adorable. The text is a standard litany of place names, but it does take particular care to make the city sound as appealing as possible to small children. Additional fact pages about the city can be found at the end of the book.

While it won’t find much of an audience beyond already interested tourists, this guide to Milwaukee is a cut above its ilk, and it bodes well for the rest of the series. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-53411-017-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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