Fun; kids should lap this up fur storytime.

CAT PROBLEMS

From the Animal Problems series

Life as a cat can give one paws.

The angst-y feline narrator has quite a tale to tell, grumbling sardonically about how impurr-fect life is as an indoor-only cat; screeching about various daily woes, like “only” getting “nineteen hours of sleep” and why another cat’s sitting where it wants to; and making constant demands (“What does it take to get a little bowl service around here?”) All in all, this furry complainer seems to have a lot to yammer about. “Things would be different if I knew how to open a door,” it grumps. The cat’s whiny, self-centered personality is wittily conveyed, but its wry monologue also elicits sympathy; cat guardians might not consider how frustrating it might be for a pet to be permanently housebound. When the cat bemoans its fate to a squirrel through the window screen, the street-smart rodent offers perspective. Readers who’ve been owned by kitties will laugh knowingly at the protagonist’s shifty mental processes and comical shenanigans. The frenetic illustrations, with a limited palette of mostly browns, tans, and grays, gibe well with the humorous text. Innovative book design enhances the visual appeal, with text placement and white space focusing attention. Numerous spreads are set in panels for quick pacing; many words/phrases are set in various fonts for dramatic effect. Note the frayed ends on some letters in the title on the dust jacket. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Fun; kids should lap this up fur storytime. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30213-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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