Engaging wordplay makes a serious point about inclusion.


Feathered friends are flustered when flamingos move into the neighborhood.

Flamboyance describes a group of flamingos, just like a waddle of penguins or a brood of chickens. But these flamingos aren’t just flamboyantly bright pink—they also wear tiaras and feather boas, and one sports a rainbow mohawk. The longtime residents are all atwitter, often alliteratively. A “gaggle of geese gathered to gab. ‘Flamingos! Really? In our backyard?’ ” Every bird family seems to have an opinion, and it’s a negative one. A squadron of pelicans creates a daytime neighborhood watch. Nightingales take the late shift. Finally, all the birds flock together to march on the flamingos’ new home. Luckily, when the flamingos open their door, wrens chime, “Stay calm,” and the wisdom of owls has brought “a heaping plate of algae for the new neighbors.” The flamingos then reveal a surprise—a “welcome to our home” party—with all their new neighbors invited. For all the colorful illustrations, fun collective nouns (a list is in the backmatter), and clever wordplay and alliteration, this book has a serious message about “inclusion, exclusion, and the stereotypes, fears, and assumptions that can lead to discrimination,” as the author’s note explains. Dialogue in the concluding scene is unsubtle (“Differences don’t have to be scary”; “What were we getting so worked up about?”), but this story is a welcome springboard for age-appropriate discussions of assumptions, stereotypes, and inclusion. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Engaging wordplay makes a serious point about inclusion. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4338-3278-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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