An adorable story about friendship and learning how to state your needs.

ISOBEL ADDS IT UP

When the noise from next door threatens to keep quiet-loving Isobel from completing her math homework on time, she gets serious about resolving her noisy-neighbor situation.

Isobel, who presents as Black, listens to the loud thumps and bumps made by her new and noisy neighbors and imagines that there must be acrobats on the other side of the shared wall. As the noise continues, Isobel thinks that the neighbors must be a marching band or even a basketball team! After a failed attempt to get back at the neighbors by making some noise of her own, Isobel comes up with a new plan. She and her father bake peanut-butter cookies and deliver them with a note asking the new neighbors to be quiet. To her surprise, she receives a note back from her new neighbor, Bernadette—an elephant. Bernadette also has math homework due Monday, and it turns out the two make a winning pair of study partners. Not only is it refreshing to read a story about a little girl who loves math, but it is also exciting to read a book in which a child learns to establish boundaries in a way that is kind and fair. Ford illustrates Isobel’s reality in full color, with skewed angles to emphasize the disruption to her routines; both the equations she’s trying to work and her imagined scenes are represented as monochrome, white-space–filling cartoons.

An adorable story about friendship and learning how to state your needs. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-17810-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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