Bruce may not be having a “BIG FUN DAY,” but new readers sure will.


Bruce the bear (Bruce’s Big Move, 2017, etc.) is back for another grumpy day, this time in early-reader form.

Fans of Bruce can rejoice as their favorite character advances alongside his audience. The well-known grouch appears with his signature skeptical expression and mouse frenemy Nibbs. Nibbs arranges a “BIG FUN DAY” for the pair, but as per usual, it’s laced with disaster. Youngsters will giggle at and groan alongside Bruce as he recovers from a syrup-doused breakfast in bed, runs from an ant-infested picnic gone awry, and endures an extremely wet boat ride. The sight of oblivious Nibbs leading Bruce through the challenges, constantly beaming, adds to the laughs. The twist ending—that Bruce “likes being grumpy” and secretly enjoyed his harrowing day—is a smidge disappointing after such a fresh-feeling story, but no one will complain after all the fun. Higgins’ droll narrative style uses predictable and repetitive vocabulary and plenty of clear visual cues to help newly independent readers navigate the book themselves. There are enough meaty words like “afternoon” and “fancy” and “supper” interwoven to keep youngsters on their toes, but the narrative is so engaging and the art so crisp and colorfully textured that they’ll be eager to read on.

Bruce may not be having a “BIG FUN DAY,” but new readers sure will. (Early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-01577-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Hee haw.

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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.


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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