Elephant & Piggie sure are a tough act to follow, but readers will more than likely want to squirrel these new friends...


From the Unlimited Squirrels series , Vol. 1

A cast of squirrels investigates a missing tooth in this off-the-wall series opener from Willems.

When lisping Zoom Squirrel reveals that they lost their tooth, the other squirrels work themselves into a frenzy. A tooth? All alone? Oh no! The rodent collective asks for clues and declares it their mission to find Zoom Squirrel’s tooth. As the others’ grand search takes them near and far (albeit in the wrong directions), Zoom Squirrel finds their tooth without help. Or did the tooth find Zoom Squirrel? This reader, a level up in complexity from Elephant & Piggie, offers a similar formula but with a longer page count and a larger cast of cartoony characters. Willems’ signature use of color-coded speech bubbles helps readers recognize speakers amid the increased amount of dialogue. Willems also breaks out of his early-reader mold with the inclusion of backmatter (tooth facts, silly jokes, and a quiz) and a table of contents. While the amusing backmatter effectively blends elements of nonfiction, the slim table of contents comes off as extraneous since the bulk of the story is uninterrupted by chapters. Similarly, Willems’ use of “emote-acorns” to alert readers “when the Squirrels have BIG feelings” is a unique tool for encouraging social-emotional development but questionably effective.

Elephant & Piggie sure are a tough act to follow, but readers will more than likely want to squirrel these new friends away with equal fervor. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-368-02457-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


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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