A fable that reminds readers that “normal” isn’t always better.


Sometimes our differences prove to be our greatest strengths.

Elephant has an unusually long nose—even for an elephant. Rather than letting it slow him down, he uses it for all sorts of fun and practical applications on the savanna. Elephant uses his lengthy trunk to rock Little Antelope to sleep and to help Old Monkey climb trees. The refrain “That’s not normal!” follows each example of Elephant using his trunk in an unexpected way, each depicted by du Faÿ with winning whimsy. Most of the animals are thankful for Elephant’s odd but helpful nose. The only animal around that doesn’t seem amused by Elephant’s stretched-out snout is grouchy busybody Hippopotamus. He’s so preoccupied with criticizing Elephant that he doesn’t notice when Baby Hippo is in imminent danger. Elephant and his nose step in to save the day despite Hippopotamus’ harassment. A chastened Hippo apologizes and vows to change his judgmental ways—a neat and tidy ending that readers can aspire to even if they don’t witness it often in real life. This solid English translation of the Spanish ¡Eso no es normal! (published in Spain in 2015) preserves the charm of the original. Repeated phrases and eye-catching illustrations give the story great read-aloud and read-together potential.

A fable that reminds readers that “normal” isn’t always better. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-84-18133-23-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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