This delightful story waffles irresistibly between reality and fantasy, and young readers will find Waffle the dream dog a...

DREAM DOG

The common developmental stage of imaginary friendship is creatively and charmingly addressed in this bittersweet tale of a boy and his dogs—one real and one pretend (or maybe not).

Harry lives alone with his dad. Harry wants a dog, but Dad has allergies. So Harry puts on his X-35 Infra-Rocket Imagination Helmet and conjures up his own perfect pet, a dream dog named Waffle. This new pet is huge and fuzzy, all light blue and white like cumulous clouds, and only Harry can see him. Waffle and Harry become best pals, with Harry’s dad playing along with the idea of the imaginary dog—though readers can see Waffle in all his blue-and-white, surprisingly believable glory. When Dad’s allergies suddenly improve, he brings home a real dog. A little adjustment of the helmet ensures that new dog Bumper can see Waffle, and Harry takes both dogs to the park. In a stunning conclusion, Waffle chases after fluffy clouds and disappears into the sky, leaving Harry not to mourn (he knows Waffle is happy) but to devote himself to Bumper. An imaginative, humorous text is well-complemented by large-format illustrations in gouache, pencil and ink. The busy illustrations are filled with fanciful details and funny peripheral characters, but Waffle is a captivating star with a real personality all his own.

This delightful story waffles irresistibly between reality and fantasy, and young readers will find Waffle the dream dog a tasty treat. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-375-86655-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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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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