A treat of a birthday picture book.

A PIECE OF CAKE

Bringing his friend a birthday surprise isn’t exactly a piece of cake for Mouse.

Mouse bakes a delicious birthday cake for his friend, Little Bird, but as he takes the walk to deliver it to Little Bird’s house, various animals along the way entice him to share pieces with them. In return, they offer him miscellaneous tokens of thanks. He feels bad when he arrives at Little Bird’s house with a cork from Chicken, a wire from Squirrel, a butterfly net from Bear and a flyswatter from Cow, but Little Bird has a big plan. It turns out each animal who was eager to swap something for cake needs something that another animal traded. By fulfilling these needs, Little Bird and Mouse obtain ingredients to make a new cake—milk from Cow, honey from Bear, nuts from Squirrel and eggs from Chicken. The fun comes with the surprising solutions that Little Bird and Mouse offer: They don’t give Bear a flyswatter to shoo away the bees swarming near the honey he’s collected, for example; they give him the cork to plug up the hive. (Here’s hoping Bear removes it when he leaves, or that’s the last honey he’ll be collecting.) Digitally colored pencil illustrations lack the sketchy, expressive charm of Pham’s Big Sister, Little Sister (2005) and instead adopt a flat, humorous cartoonish quality that’s reminiscent of some of illustrator Peter Brown’s work.

A treat of a birthday picture book. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-199264-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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