A message-driven text at odds with the art’s fantasy and whimsy.

THE BOY WHO CRIED

Poor Billy.

While some stories send the message that it’s OK for boys to cry, the pale-skinned boy in this picture book needs no such assurance. He cries freely, often, and at the slightest provocation; what he needs is help achieving emotional regulation. Fed up with his tantrum over not getting a toy he wanted while out with his mother, Billy’s parents send him to his room, where he weeps and wails, with only his cat to comfort him. Before he falls asleep his mother says that his “tears have flooded the house up to my ankles!”; his father says the flood has reached his knees. Text and art suggest that readers should accept this literally, but readers may wonder whether it is in fact figurative speech that then provokes Billy’s dream of being adrift in a sea of his own tears. Ultimately Tubbs the cat saves the day by drinking down all those tears, then sending Billy falling back into wakefulness and out of his dream. He immediately finds his parents, lesson learned: “while it’s okay to cry sometimes, throwing a tantrum only causes a flood of problems!” This moralistic conclusion offers no practical strategies for readers coming to the book with similar emotional issues. Le’s illustrations feature fine, black outlines and rich colors set on backgrounds that suggest mottled textures.

A message-driven text at odds with the art’s fantasy and whimsy. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60887-730-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Insight Kids

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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