Sadly, this tale of picture-book representation misses a valuable opportunity.

WILLOW THE ARMADILLO

Representation matters.

Willow the armadillo loves picture books. She checks armfuls of them out of the library and desperately wants to see herself in one. She tries several things to achieve her goal: taking a heroism class, auditioning, answering an ad (“YOU COULD BE THE NEXT PICTURE BOOK HERO!”). Nothing works out, and she becomes discouraged. An unexpected crisis helps her discover how to be a hero—do the thing she loves the most and help others along the way. Bright, colorful illustrations depict various cartoon animal characters, some with more expressive faces than others. On the surface, Willow’s story seems heartwarming; however, it seems to make light of a much more serious problem in the children’s-book industry: a lack of representation not of animals but of children of color and other marginalized identities. Will children of color, children with disabilities, and children with LGBTQ identities wishing to see themselves represented as picture-book heroes see themselves in this pink armadillo? The denouement, in which Willow decides to be happy reading others’ stories because “nothing could top being a hero in real life,” feels like a slap in the face to those children who deserve to see themselves. What is needed right now are books that can serve as mirrors for children and offer them the chance to see themselves as literary, and literal, heroes.

Sadly, this tale of picture-book representation misses a valuable opportunity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4105-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development.

DOUBLE PUPPY TROUBLE

From the McKellar Math series

A child who insists on having MORE of everything gets MORE than she can handle.

Demanding young Moxie Jo is delighted to discover that pushing the button on a stick she finds in the yard doubles anything she points to. Unfortunately, when she points to her puppy, Max, the button gets stuck—and in no time one dog has become two, then four, then eight, then….Readers familiar with the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” or Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona will know how this is going to go, and Masse obliges by filling up succeeding scenes with burgeoning hordes of cute yellow puppies enthusiastically making a shambles of the house. McKellar puts an arithmetical spin on the crisis—“The number of pups exponentially grew: / They each multiplied times a factor of 2!” When clumsy little brother Clark inadvertently intervenes, Moxie Jo is left wiser about her real needs (mostly). An appended section uses lemons to show how exponential doubling quickly leads to really big numbers. Stuart J. Murphy’s Double the Ducks (illustrated by Valeria Petrone, 2002) in the MathStart series explores doubling from a broader perspective and includes more backmatter to encourage further study, but this outing adds some messaging: Moxie Jo’s change of perspective may give children with sharing issues food for thought. She and her family are White; her friends are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Doubles down on a basic math concept with a bit of character development. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-101-93386-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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