ROSCOE AND THE PELICAN RESCUE

It’s time now for picture books to start weighing in on the Deepwater Horizon debacle. Reed’s effort is a tender beginning. A young boy is looking forward to a vacation fishing, swimming and building sand castles with his cousin, who lives on the Louisiana coast. When they arrive at the beach, they are dismayed to find blobs of oil polluting the sand and, worse, fouling three pelicans. Uncle Willie is fuming (“His jaw is clenched and quivering in a way that scares me,” says the boy) as he and Aunt Olivia and the kids get the birds to a wildlife rehab center. There commences the arduous process of strengthening the birds, washing and drying them. The text explains the cleaning process without becoming overly pedagogic, and the birds are returned to clean water. Reed doesn’t belabor the mess that the oil spill has caused, partly because that is not in the nature of her artwork, which is childlike and two-dimensional; the characters all have big potato heads (Uncle Willie does a very good angry potato head). This is not an Armageddon scenario—no birds die, down the road the beach is unpolluted—as the story pulls up short of that. Way too short: This object lesson needs perhaps a little sting, something to ensure remembrance of the dirty deed, whose long-term consequences won’t be known for years. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2352-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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