This dog’s enthusiasm is catching, but the message is murky.


From the Child's Play Library series

Being the new kid can be hard, especially when you’re different.

Charlie, an exuberant golden retriever–esque dog, loves school and eagerly looks forward to his first day. But at Catford Primary, where he is the only dog among a sea of cats, things are very different from his old school. Charlie isn’t sure which bathroom to use or where his classroom is, and the classes (string theory?) go poorly. Playtime isn’t any better (apparently cats don’t like their butts sniffed). Charlie sulks at home that night, mystified that a dog with so many friendship awards could have failed to make a single new buddy. But the Dog to Cat Dictionary he finds in the school library may hold the key. Eventually, Charlie isn’t the only one making changes to gain new friends; the cats and dog are shown digging holes and playing with sticks during playtime. Dicmas charmingly captures the personality differences between cats and dogs; the former aloof and territorial, the latter excitable and outgoing. Readers may need to get used to Charlie’s off-kilter face, with one eyeball bulging in three-quarter view. For readers in Charlie’s position, it’s disappointing to see that not a single feline at Catford, neither student nor teacher, makes any overtures to Charlie until he works to learn their language. As both encouragement for ELL students and model for their classmates, it pales in comparison to Aidan Cassie’s The Word for Friend (2020).

This dog’s enthusiasm is catching, but the message is murky. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78628-342-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


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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