This sweet celebration of friendship is elevated by its winsome illustrations. (Picture book. 4-7)

SIDE BY SIDE

A little mouse finds a friend in this rhyming picture book.

Little Mouseling, the youngest of many, is very small, and her many brothers and sisters often just don’t wait for her. When she pops out from under the tree where her family lives, many respond to her plea for someone to “stay by [her] side.” Unfortunately, Toad Flip likes the water (she doesn’t), and Big Squirrel Brown wants to climb (she doesn’t). Her sad tears, however, bring “a tinyful, weenimous, little black vole” to her side. They find much in common and much to share: “all the things / you can do as a two!” Gliori has created a fanciful wood of little animals that sometimes only vaguely resemble their actual counterparts; all have big eyes and lively expressions. She uses curlicues of plants, trees and tails to show movement and pattern—and joy. Mouseling’s ladybug pull-toy is a stroke of brilliance; the little black vole’s scene of singing and dancing, with his mouth open operatically wide and waving two maple helicopters in the air like banners, is another. The text is rhymed, not always felicitously, but the language is pleasing. The penultimate spread of paired-off buddies—rabbits and foxes and owls and insects—is an affectionate paean to BFFs and/or couples.

This sweet celebration of friendship is elevated by its winsome illustrations. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-81326-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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