This compelling fictional introduction raises awareness and empathy for a very real environmental problem.


Lanan’s wordless narrative pulls viewers right into the choppy waves of her gouache-and-watercolor world as a man and a pre-adolescent kid haul fish-laden nets into their boat.

Their shared light skin tone and reddish-brown hair signal a familial relationship. As the day winds down, the child notices what readers have been observing: A whale is entangled in underwater lines connected to traps for shellfish. While the father would prefer to depart, the child insists that they help the animal. Lanan employs a variety of perspectives and page designs to build suspense and maintain interest. Circular compositions depicting the tilting vessel on white backgrounds—as if glimpsed through a telescope—are balanced on either side of the gutter. These give way to double-page spreads of the blue ocean depths that bleed off the page. Action is observed from the air, underwater, and at middle range, with a front seat to the rescue above and below the surface. At times the book must be turned vertically to grasp the scale of the operation. Endpapers provide a satisfying symmetry related to featured characters. In a concluding note, the author asks readers to “suspend your disbelief and read this story as a fable rather than a literal guide.” She explains some liberties taken in service of layout and cautions the audience against attempting such a response. Her failure to specifically locate her “fable” or to represent realistic maritime traffic—there’s only ever the one boat—may leave coastal readers unmoored.

This compelling fictional introduction raises awareness and empathy for a very real environmental problem. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1574-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 35

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet