ARNO AND HIS HORSE

When Arno loses his wooden horse, everyone helps hunt for the small carving.

In pedestrian verse, the search unfolds: “Back to the bush, / we ran from here to there. / Mercy said, ‘Your little horse, / it could be anywhere!’ ” The word bush and some cockatoos roosting on a playhouse provide clues to the Australian setting and origin of this book. Since few of the several characters depicted are named, children will speculate about relationships among the multiracial group Arno’s seen with. Mercy and Arno have the same freckles, beige skin, and dark hair, but whether the brown-skinned and White-presenting kids and adults with them are all members of a blended family is unspoken. Grandpa, who also presents White, is introduced as the now-deceased carver of the horse. That’s what makes it special. After Arno dreams about his grandpa, he knows where to find the horse. Several elements of this happy ending require unpacking. With no clear segue between dream and waking, Arno is depicted running out alone into the night. He finds the horse buried under some tree roots, “just near the longest bridge”—which is not pictured in any of the prior illustrations. Grandpa is seen fording the river, both in Arno’s memory of his grandfather’s stories and in his dream. Does it matter? The book’s emphasis on the relationship between the older man and the young boy is comforting, but the narrative gaps tantalize.

Puzzling. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-950354-46-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scribble

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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