Perhaps one day we can reclaim the word “wild” as a descriptor for black hair, but this book doesn’t do the trick. As it is,...

NATALIE'S HAIR WAS WILD!

A young girl’s hair becomes home to animals.

Why is Natalie’s hair considered to be “wild” simply as it grows out of her head? Readers aren’t told. Instead, “wild” is used literally, as a variety of increasingly large animals come to live in the black child’s cloud of kinky hair, which “couldn’t be tamed by a comb or a pick / or restrained by barrettes or a clip.” But the text assures readers that Natalie doesn’t care (though her expressions suggest otherwise)…until the animals’ noise keeps her from sleeping. She then employs the help of a firefighter and a zookeeper, who coax the animals out, after which Natalie’s now–extra-large hair is washed, trimmed, and detangled with a garden hose and yard tools. Her hair suddenly inexplicably cornrowed, Natalie waves goodbye and keeps her hair “neat… / …for at least a week,” the final spread showcasing a frolicking Natalie with her unbound natural hair. The application of the word “wild” to a black girl’s hair may give many adult readers pause, and the plot holes may confuse young ones (are the zookeeper and firefighter stand-ins for Natalie’s parents? Is this all a metaphor for getting your hair done?).

Perhaps one day we can reclaim the word “wild” as a descriptor for black hair, but this book doesn’t do the trick. As it is, it could facilitate discussion on the politics of black hair. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-66195-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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