For all its problematic nature, a sweetly portrayed relationship.



An orphaned rhinoceros, acquired by a Dutch sea captain in India, captivates 18th-century Europe during her 17-year continental tour.

Capt. Van der Meer orders Clara hoisted onto his ship for the voyage around the Cape of Good Hope. The rhino eats hay, drinks water, and “adore[s] oranges and beer.” Fish oil is used to lubricate her hide. Once home in Holland, the captain plots logistics for Clara’s “grand tour.” McCully portrays a developing bond between Clara and her keeper, who “looked deep into his rhino’s eyes and felt calm. Clara might have been homely on the outside, but she had a beautiful soul.” The Prussian king, Frederick the Great, helps fund the tour, but Clara’s 5,000-pound appetite proves financially challenging. Louis XV dismisses the captain from Versailles when Clara’s not proffered as a gift for his menagerie. Paris is mad for Clara, though: she inspires composers, poets, sculptors, painters, scientists, and even hairdressers and dressmakers, as styles à la rhinocéros become the rage. McCully’s delicately inked watercolors span double-page spreads for expansive scenes, including one for Clara’s death. Smaller spots portray vignettes, as when Clara sprouts, then loses her horn. Oranges—so enticing to Clara—recur as a motif throughout. Endpapers map the sea and land journeys, and McCully’s note provides historical context for what would be considered an inhumane display today.

For all its problematic nature, a sweetly portrayed relationship. (author’s note, resources) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-52246-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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