Not a sure pick to cuddle up with.

CUDDLE MONKEY

Lewis, an anthropomorphic monkey, can’t get a cuddle.

Little Lewis longs for a cuddle from his parents, but they’re busy with baby brother Owen. He improvises by trying to cuddle books, toys, and then others at school. “He even tried to cuddle a puddle (just because it rhymed).” Back at home, his mother urges him to teach Owen to cuddle, but the results are “wiggly and squiggly” rather than cozy. Otis’ art shows great energy and a strong design sensibility, but the characters themselves, all anthropomorphic monkeys, may give readers pause in the wake of librarian Edi Campbell’s public scholarship on the racist history of illustrated apes or Henry Louis Gates’ coverage of the same content in Stony the Road (2019). Author Hellman’s bio claims “cuddle monkey” as a self-identifier, and illustrator Otis dedicates the book to his “two cuddle monkeys,” demonstrating both innocent intentions and, perhaps, the lack of awareness that undergirds them. By the time Lewis finally gets a bedtime cuddle from his parents, storytelling rather than ideology may trip up readers: Why was a quick hug so hard to come by earlier in the day? Poor Lewis!

Not a sure pick to cuddle up with. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3117-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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

I AM ENOUGH

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 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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