Moving and sweetly resonant.

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A BOY AND A JAGUAR

A simple memoir recounts a lifelong bond between a child who felt “broken” and the animals, especially jaguars, that have informed his life’s work.

The narrator explains his teachers must think he is “broken” when he is switched from his regular class due to his severe stuttering. But he can talk with his own small menagerie at home—in fact, he says, he can only speak fluently when he is singing or when he talks to animals. He promises the sad, caged jaguar at the Bronx Zoo that one day he will be a voice for the animals. In college, he finds ways to manage his stuttering; as an adult, he studies black bears and, later, jaguars. In a triumphant moment, he helps persuade Belize to set aside land as a jaguar preserve. Chien’s acrylic-and–charcoal-pencil art is filled with light and warm, rich colors, her edge-to-edge illustrations inviting, emotional and engaging. The forests of Belize are seen as deeply gray-green, a few animal faces peeking from the thick growth of vegetation. A note about Rabinowitz along with a brief Q-and-A pitched to young understanding confirm the promise kept: The author continues to use his voice to advocate for big cats throughout the world, as well as for stutterers.

Moving and sweetly resonant. (Picture book/biography. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-547-87507-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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