A superficial tail wagger, but it’s good to see the White House going to the dogs literally again rather than otherwise.

CHAMP AND MAJOR

FIRST DOGS

Two German shepherds take on the very important job of keeping their newly elected “dad” from working too hard.

As the Bidens’ dog since vice-presidential days, Champ knows his duties well and readily assumes new ones when Major arrives—first teaching the rambunctious shelter pup how to behave at home and in public and then, after the election, taking him on a tour of the White House. The low-saturation, generic, sparsely detailed cartoon illustrations look as whipped out as the blandly minimal narrative, which is so simple caregivers may need to fill in quite a lot for little listeners—like what is the job Champ and Major’s dad does that’s so tiring. Only one scene, of Biden addressing reporters with Vice President–elect Kamala Harris at his side, includes human figures wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Still, the newest first family is at least recognizable, and Abvabi Best also gets the dogs’ coloring right as well as populating the backgrounds with a diverse cast (including an Obama-era flashback of the African American first couple next to the White vice-presidential couple). If her final view, of the canines snuggled down in the Oval Office, is a bit speculative (not to say idealized), it does bring the double tribute to a cozy, companionable close. A closing timeline of U.S. presidential pets and a note on the histories of the two dogs and information about shelter pets in general add a few morsels of fact to chew on. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 79% of actual size.)

A superficial tail wagger, but it’s good to see the White House going to the dogs literally again rather than otherwise. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-40714-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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PUG BLASTS OFF

From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 1

A cuddly, squishy pug’s puggy-wuggy diary.

Equipped with both #pugunicorn and #pughotdog outfits, pug Baron von Bubbles (aka Bub) is the kind of dog that always dresses to impress. Bub also makes lots of memorable faces, such as the “Hey, you’re not the boss of me!” expression aimed at Duchess, the snooty pink house cat. Some of Bub’s favorite things include skateboarding, a favorite teddy, and eating peanut butter. Bub also loves Bella, who adopted Bub from a fair—it was “love at first sniff.” Together, Bub and Bella do a lot of arts and crafts. Their latest project: entering Bella’s school’s inventor challenge by making a super-duper awesome rocket. But, when the pesky neighborhood squirrel, Nutz, makes off with Bub’s bear, Bub accidentally ruins their project. How will they win the contest? More importantly, how will Bella ever forgive him? May’s cutesy, full-color cartoon art sets the tone for this pug-tastic romp for the new-to–chapter-books crowd. Emojilike faces accentuate Bub’s already expressive character design. Bub’s infectious first-person narration pushes the silly factor off the charts. In addition to creating the look and feel of a diary, the lined paper helps readers follow the eight-chapter story. Most pages have fewer than five sentences, often broken into smaller sections. Additional text appears in color-coded speech bubbles. Bella presents white.

Totes adorbs. (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53003-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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