Ecological storytelling at its finest.

READ REVIEW

CROCODILE'S TEARS

Rhino and Tickbird’s query about why Crocodile cries tears leads them from one animal to another, triggering troubling and provocative questions about Africa’s endangered habitats and its vanishing wildlife.

As Crocodile cries beside the Mburu River, Rhino asks Tickbird, “Why is Crocodile crying?” Rather than confront wily Crocodile, Tickbird sagely suggests asking a rare golden eagle, who believes Crocodile misses the trumpeting elephants. Rhino and Tickbird proceed to find an old elephant, who thinks Crocodile misses singing tree frogs. A solo tree frog thinks Crocodile misses flitting blue butterflies. A lone butterfly thinks Crocodile misses giraffes crossing the savanna. A single giraffe thinks Crocodile misses cheetahs sprinting across the grasslands. Cheetah thinks Crocodile misses open spaces, and Ostrich refuses to answer, burying his head in the sand. Then Rhino makes the nearly fatal mistake of asking Crocodile why he cries. Beard’s strong use of textual repetition emphasizes the somber subtext that explores the “ongoing collapse of the wild and its inhabitants,” while his bold signature pen-and-watercolor illustrations rely on line, pattern and color in a primitive style that echoes some African folk art. Like a camera lens, strongly defined borders zero in on the action among Rhino, Tickbird and the endangered animals while droll expressions on animal faces add humorous touches to this cautionary tale.

Ecological storytelling at its finest. (author’s note, glossary of endangered animals with colored photos) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0008-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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