A warmhearted tribute to reading.

SURF'S UP

A sunny day near the ocean means different kinds of excitement for frog friends Bro and Dude.

Dude peeks into the window: “SURF’S UP, BRO!” But Bro is too immersed in a book to respond (“You’d rather read a book than go to the beach?” Dude asks incredulously), so Dude pops pal and surfboard onto the back of his push scooter. On the way, Bro is still reading: “WOWIE KAZOWIE!” The story (“about a man looking for a whale”) begins to unfold around them both. The looming whale, a stormy sea, a ship with a frog sporting a bicorn hat at the helm, and the mast cracking in two are suddenly right at hand. Bro’s thrilled enthusiasm and punchy exclamations as he finishes the book finally elicit Dude’s eager questions: “Did they catch the whale? Who got the gold?” and Bro’s sly response, “Not telling.” Miyares’ edge-to-edge illustrations, full of motion, capture in these frog characters a friendship that offers space to be oneself, with a nice reversal at the end: Dude has his nose in the book (“WHOA, DADDY-O”), and Bro catches a wave (“COWABUNGA!”). Newbery winner (The Crossover, 2014) Alexander’s humorous, tautly poetic dialogue between friends begs to be read aloud to small listeners or by new readers, and these frogs have cultural punch that many plain-vanilla animal characters lack. The nod to Moby-Dick is a bonus.

A warmhearted tribute to reading. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4220-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

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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