More Toy Story than Corduroy, a satisfying tale of unexpected friendship.


A spoiled girl rudely rejects a birthday gift of a teddy bear and flings it over to the eagerly rambunctious family dog.

The stuffed bear, welcomed by the dog, insists it is “a fancy kids’ toy with lots of pockets,” and indeed the vest it wears is festooned with them. It is not meant to be a disgusting, chewed, and torn-up dog toy. After being ignored by the little girl one too many times, the bear is eventually thrown into “the wedge” between her bed and the wall to join her other discards. The bear finally relents, giving in to the dog’s persistent cajoling to play and ultimately have lots of fun as a dog toy. Black-outlined cartoons of a scruffy, floppy-eared mutt and a smug brown bear dressed in a utility vest expand on the dialogue-only narrative. The text does not use speech balloons to attribute the dialogue but rather a different typeface for the various characters. Empathy for the bear builds as the girl’s callous actions continue. Choosing friends can be a tricky road to follow in life and rejection a difficult reality to accept. Readers will cheer when the dog’s boundless exuberance eventually counters the girl’s incessant dismissal to create a satisfying bond, and dog lovers will certainly appreciate the sentiments behind the dog’s role in the story. The girl, the only human in the story, is a child of color. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

More Toy Story than Corduroy, a satisfying tale of unexpected friendship. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11901-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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