A bit too straightforward with its lesson, but this British import has both a heart and a spirited lead.

FREE TO BE ELEPHANT ME

What will Num-Num’s Elephant Name be?

Elephant tradition demands that every young elephant perform for Elephant Mighty to show they are best at something. Elephant Mighty, depicted in the illustrations as a tusked, enthroned bull with crown and ermine-trimmed robe, will then reward them with an Elephant Name. When Nina pulls a tree from the ground with her trunk, Elephant Mighty says, “Your trunk is so splendid and long! / I never imagined that tree would come loose. / I’m calling you ELEPHANT STRONG!” But Num-Num doesn’t have a talent. Though he tries a few tricks when forced to, the elephants laugh at him, and Elephant Mighty dubs him Elephant Nothing. Num-Num moves far away to his own watering hole, where, because he is such a sweet elephant, he makes a lot of new friends of many different species. When they hear his story, they’re shocked. The group treks back to tell Elephant Mighty how wrong he was. Num-Num tells a skeptical ruler that he wants to be Elephant Me. “I may not be noisy or tough, / But the hardest thing sometimes is just to be YOU, / And to know being YOU is ENOUGH.” Elephant Mighty has a surprising response, and everything ends with a dance. Andreae’s signature perky, rhymed verse (here set in abcb quatrains) pairs nicely with Parker-Rees’ sunny cartoon illustrations.

A bit too straightforward with its lesson, but this British import has both a heart and a spirited lead. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-73427-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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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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