Will have adults and young readers alike reflecting on the indispensable natures of their own favorite stuffies.

BEAR IS A BEAR

In this ode to the timelessness of cherished playthings, a toy bear accompanies a child through myriad experiences.

Bear is not just a bear. Bear is a warm, soft pillow, a tissue when necessary, and a willing and equal partner in play. Bear takes on these various roles with gusto, depicted, through the eyes of a child, as a real, large bear with expressive features and anthropomorphic body language. Humor and sentiment abound as Bear’s reactions elevate the simple yet touching text. Throughout the scenes, the mutual adoration between Bear and child is apparent, and their bond sees them through all kinds of moments, from energetic pirate play to snuggling together during a scary storm. As the child ages, Bear’s necessity fades, and it is relegated to an old trunk and forgotten. Some time later, remembered once more, Bear starts a new friendship after being introduced to the next generation, making its journey come full circle. The repetitive beginning of each sentence—“Bear is…”—reinforces the soothing, reassuring tone of this gentle story. Bear’s rich, golden brown fur exudes warmth and comfort while embodying the repeating refrain: “Bear is a bear full of love.” The heavy use of white space on several pages puts the focus on the pair’s relationship and reflects how they are content in a world of their own. Both the original child and Bear’s new human friend have straight, black hair and pale skin. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Will have adults and young readers alike reflecting on the indispensable natures of their own favorite stuffies. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288051-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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