Whimsical and charming illustrations (literally) elevate this simple tale.

SHY WILLOW

Willow, a painfully shy rabbit who lives in an abandoned mailbox, plucks up her courage to journey on the grandest adventure ever.

The outdoors can be scary for a small rabbit, and Willow’s favorite quiet and cozy place to be is inside her cheerily multihued mailbox, where her pencil drawings are tacked all over the walls. One day, a letter flutters in through the slot—a letter addressed to the moon. In it, a child’s scrawl asks the moon to please shine big and bright for his mother’s birthday tomorrow. Alas, who will deliver the letter to the moon on such short notice? Could Willow do it? Min’s sweet illustrations convey Willow’s hesitation, her determination, her fear—and her dejection as the moon proves difficult to reach. Even after a wondrous soaring flight on birdback (so hopeful!) is thwarted by a gust of wind, she perseveres, voyaging to the moon in a way only she and her trusty sketchbook together could have achieved. Willow is a white rabbit, and the few humans depicted have light skin and cartoony features with dots for eyes. But Min’s soft, colorful illustrations (as well as a rabbit protagonist making her way in a human world) give readers a magical feeling from the beginning, and the climax is lovely to behold. They make this otherwise slight story worth a look.

Whimsical and charming illustrations (literally) elevate this simple tale. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 9781-64614-035-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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

I AM ENOUGH

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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