Less implausible than Casey Lyell and Sebastià Serra’s Inky’s Great Escape (2017) but still unfortunate.

INKY THE OCTOPUS

BOUND FOR GLORY

Inky the octopus sings his tale.

Longing for the excitement of the “open sea,” a captive octopus describes its getaway. Basing her re-creation on an actual octopus’s escape from the New Zealand Aquarium, in 2016, Guendelsberger imagines the dissonance between Inky’s comfortable familiarity with aquarium life and his yearning to be free, finishing with his actual escape. The text is written in ballad meter, repeating variations on the refrain: “Out of this tank, I must break free. / I hear the ocean calling me!” Readers aloud may find some arrhythmic lines: “I’ve always liked eight-arm charades and seaweed hide-and-seek. / I’ve had fun playing gravel hockey and tentacle tag each week.” More importantly, the first-person narrative anthropomorphizes this alien ocean invertebrate, attributing dreams, senses, and communication skills that are human but not likely appropriate for octopuses or even fish. (In contradiction to the endmatter entry, the correct plural is octopuses, not the occasional octopodes or the incorrect back-formation octopi.) In a highly unlikely conversation with his tankmate Blotchy, he invites the fish to accompany him into “the far and great unknown.” The fish replies he would “rather stay / within his comfy home.” Leonard’s appealing cartoon illustrations reinforce this anthropomorphizing, with amusing expressions in Inky’s humanoid eyes and even a bag of belongings hanging from one tentacle as he imagines his quest. All the humans shown seem to be white. Since the actual escape was nothing short of astonishing, the anthropomorphization serves to cheapen rather than ennoble the subject.

Less implausible than Casey Lyell and Sebastià Serra’s Inky’s Great Escape (2017) but still unfortunate. (historical note, octopus facts, bibliography) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5414-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

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

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

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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