Will have adults and young readers alike reflecting on the indispensable natures of their own favorite stuffies.

BEAR IS A BEAR

In this ode to the timelessness of cherished playthings, a toy bear accompanies a child through myriad experiences.

Bear is not just a bear. Bear is a warm, soft pillow, a tissue when necessary, and a willing and equal partner in play. Bear takes on these various roles with gusto, depicted, through the eyes of a child, as a real, large bear with expressive features and anthropomorphic body language. Humor and sentiment abound as Bear’s reactions elevate the simple yet touching text. Throughout the scenes, the mutual adoration between Bear and child is apparent, and their bond sees them through all kinds of moments, from energetic pirate play to snuggling together during a scary storm. As the child ages, Bear’s necessity fades, and it is relegated to an old trunk and forgotten. Some time later, remembered once more, Bear starts a new friendship after being introduced to the next generation, making its journey come full circle. The repetitive beginning of each sentence—“Bear is…”—reinforces the soothing, reassuring tone of this gentle story. Bear’s rich, golden brown fur exudes warmth and comfort while embodying the repeating refrain: “Bear is a bear full of love.” The heavy use of white space on several pages puts the focus on the pair’s relationship and reflects how they are content in a world of their own. Both the original child and Bear’s new human friend have straight, black hair and pale skin. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Will have adults and young readers alike reflecting on the indispensable natures of their own favorite stuffies. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288051-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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