An uplifting tale about overcoming fear.


Max encourages Marla to fly by building a kite.

One day Max, an upbeat young child, announces to pal Marla, a little barn owl, they will build a kite to “fly high up in the sky.” Max labors enthusiastically on the kite, but Marla barely participates. “Flying is not her favorite thing.” After adding a sketched self-portrait to the kite, Max takes Marla outside and instructs her to fly high with their kite beside her, as if they were flying together. When Marla ignores Max’s flight instructions, the child realizes she’s afraid and assures her owls were born to fly. Marla’s having none of it. The next day Max coaxes Marla to help rake fallen leaves and find their now-missing kite. Marla, however, stands behind a tree—and on the kite—until a sudden wind sweeps both her and the kite skyward, where she notices Max’s picture, hears her friend encouraging her, and reacts as she was born to. Simple, gently humorous watercolor-and-ink illustrations rendered with expressive black outlines and fluid, pale color washes track Max’s supportive efforts to help Marla overcome her fear of flying in close-up vignettes as well as expansive aerial spreads. Max and Marla’s facial expressions and body language deftly reveal their status as “best friends.” Max is white and appears to live alone with Marla but no parents.

An uplifting tale about overcoming fear. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51566-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?