This silly story turns convention on its head, and kids who get the joke will surely giggle.


Hordes of puppies take over the town of Strictville, and no one knows how to react.

Strictville has a very bold motto: “All Work and No Play Makes for a Great Day!” So when a tiny puppy wanders into town, it is seen as a menace. No cuteness or play allowed! But things grow worse when more and more puppies come. The dark-skinned, female mayor with fantastic cat-eye glasses shouts, “We must get rid of these adorable creatures!” The townsfolk try everything: throwing sticks (the puppies just bring them back), chasing them (the puppies love the game), and feeding them (that is when the tail-wagging starts). Ultimately, they decide the safest place is indoors, and everyone runs home. Until the tiniest puppy, with the biggest eyes, catches the attention of a brown-skinned boy named Teddy. The entire multiracial town peers out in horror from their windows while Teddy dares to shake the pup’s tiny, fuzzy paw. It is…delightful! Strictville becomes not so strict after all. Smith’s cartoonish people pair well with the mock mass hysteria of a puppy invasion, her tidy streetscapes teeming with puppies appropriately Twilight Zone–esque. Hints of a new cute creature coming to town just may shake things up again.

This silly story turns convention on its head, and kids who get the joke will surely giggle. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-99917-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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


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 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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