Overlooking (again) the association of Chinese names with a tired joke, this may put a few first-day fears to rest, and it...

CHU'S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

Gaiman continues his sneeze pun in this look at a worried panda cub’s first day of school.

Chu’s expressed school worries are limited to “What will happen?” “Will they be nice?” and “Will they like me?” though the new student’s concerns (and his posture and facial expressions) will be familiar to any child facing school for the first time. Chu’s new teacher has a “friendly face,” and his animal classmates—ranging from a rhino and a giraffe down to a crab, a snake and a snail—all seem nice. The first activity the class does is to sit in a circle and tell their new friends their names and what they love to do best; the teacher writes their names on the chalkboard. (Fans of Chu’s Day will see the punch line coming.) Their talents and things they love are wide-ranging—climbing trees, singing, reading books—but none is as unusual as Chu’s. After two wordless double-page spreads depicting both the post-sneeze surprise and destruction and subsequent recovery and delight, Chu drolly says, “That’s what I do.” Rex’s oil-and–mixed-media illustrations capture the complex feelings that accompany the first day of school, and Chu is believable when he tells his parents, “I’m not worried anymore.”

Overlooking (again) the association of Chinese names with a tired joke, this may put a few first-day fears to rest, and it will probably also cause some tension-relieving laughter. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-222397-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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