The trope of the unlikely friendship delivered with a traditional feel and a modern message.

AAALLIGATOR!

When a boy befriends an alligator, it becomes a problem for the whole town.

What starts as a pleasantly routine walk in the woods turns into a surprising friendship after “the boy,” as he’s consistently called, frees an alligator caught in thick vines. When the mayor declares a ban on alligators, the townspeople rally in secret to find a way to feed and take care of the alligator, going so far as to protect him by hiding him in plain sight. Henderson’s sweet story about a boy saving his friend has a subtle political subtext, as the people find a way to do what’s right even when led by an ineffective, unworthy elected official. There is much to harvest from Stegmaier’s illustrations. The palette of muted earth tones helps connect the worlds of both the alligator and the boy. There are lovely elements of foreshadowing, like the guitar that the boy plays to lull the alligator to sleep appearing pages before its use, sticking out of his backpack. In addition, there are recurring details, like nods to the boy’s love of birds, that readers will enjoy finding. The boy has pale skin and stick-straight black hair, and the mayor is White, looking rather like a beardless Abraham Lincoln. Townspeople are depicted as racially diverse; one uses a wheelchair.

The trope of the unlikely friendship delivered with a traditional feel and a modern message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0151-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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