Fun-filled, delightful, and inventive.


Henry goes out with his sled and finds adventure on a snow-filled day in his very small Icelandic village.

He looks down from a slope and notices a large white shape on the beach and discovers that it is a very large polar bear. Polar bears can be fearsome, but this one seems shy and lost. His village is no place for a polar bear, so kindhearted, pragmatic Henry decides to help it find its way home. First a disguise is needed, in the form of a large red sweater and cap swiped from a clothesline. Several stops to assuage the bear’s hunger empty the food shops and leave the bear even larger than before. With Grandpa’s help and quite a lot of ingenuity, while still maintaining secrecy from the clueless villagers, they are able to get to the harbor, where they must use two boats in tandem to get their huge traveler safely home. The author/illustrator tells the spare tale in a matter-of-fact manner employing simple, brief sentences placed in a world of white, befitting the Arctic setting. The bright cartoon illustrations, appearing in small vignettes as well as single- and double-page spreads and on the endpapers, flesh out the story with imaginative, often hilarious details. Amid the fun is a gentle, subtle message about the very real plight of polar bears. Henry, Grandpa, and the villagers all present White.

Fun-filled, delightful, and inventive. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-76036-086-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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