A solid (if a bit basic) primer.

LUNCH BOX BULLY

From the I Like To Read series

Schoolyard animals take on a bully—with lemons.

While the other animal “boys and girls” like their classmate Max (a rabbit), Big Jim (a warthog) does not. He relentlessly steals Max’s “good lunch,” making Max cry. Max’s friends encourage multiple tactics to deal with this bully. First, Max simply avoids Big Jim. The bully still takes his lunch. Next, Max buys Big Jim a lemon ice as a peace offering. The bully dumps the beverage over Max’s head (he doesn’t like lemons). Outraged, Max rushes to fight Big Jim. The scuffle is short-lived—and lands Max in the branches of a lemon tree. But Max gets a sneaky idea. The next day, Big Jim steals Max’s lunch as always, but his teeth crunch on a big, citrusy surprise (“Yuck!!!!!!!!!!”). The victory has Max coining a new adage: “A lemon a day keeps the bully away.” But what about Big Jim? With a vocabulary of around 90 words and at most five lines of text per page (eight words per line), the text maintains accessibility to beginning readers. Wilhem’s cartoony watercolors are soft against the white backgrounds, adding a friendly quality even to the tense scenes. A scripted scenario about how to deal with a real-life bully in the backmatter expands upon the story’s lessons. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 62% of actual size.)

A solid (if a bit basic) primer. (Early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3933-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

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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