This story’s inclusive, mildly spooky plot and its visual details will engage kids and encourage rereading for what they...

GATOR, GATOR, GATOR!

An updated, aquatic version of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” this #ownvoices-authored story has a protagonist who possesses more curiosity than courage.

In this swamp-filled, poetic, circular tale, an unnamed child asks readers Dora the Explorer–type direct-address questions while inviting readers aboard a motorboat. Since Granny has said that the gator has skin “like nails” and a temper that’s “hot like sauce,” the protagonist imparts safety advice and passes you a life jacket and a pair of binoculars. Shadowed shapes that prompt many false alarms enable young readers to guess which animals the protagonist sees before light and a binocular view reveal them. When a big shadowy hint suggests that the protagonist is about to find that gator, a hasty retreat commences. Set in the bayou, this book features a black girl with an afro-puff ponytail, contributing to what may be a growing genre of children’s books that depict black and brown children and families enjoying nature. Notably, the companion to whom the protagonist hands binoculars has arms that are equally brown, frequently seen breaking into the frame. With full-page spreads of bold color, especially blues and greens, Preston-Gannon invites young readers to notice and discuss the clearly illustrated flora and fauna.

This story’s inclusive, mildly spooky plot and its visual details will engage kids and encourage rereading for what they might have missed. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-246330-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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