An imperfect yet captivating introduction to the ocean habitat.

THE SEA KNOWS

An introduction to the sea and some of the creatures that inhabit it.

Using the concepts of “sea” and “ocean” interchangeably, the book presents the ocean world in short rhythmic sentences that anthropomorphize it: “We are young. The sea is old. / The sea has secrets to unfold. / The sea knows.” Dynamic, colorful, semirealistic illustrations accompany the text. As the book progresses, readers find out what the sea knows: “The sea knows huge.” “The sea knows short.” “The sea knows bold.” “The sea knows bright.” “The sea knows wind, and waves that tower.” Sacrificing information for form, the evocative text provides no information alongside the illustrations to expand on these statements. For that, readers must rely on the backmatter. Since the intended audience is presumably not one familiar with marine life but rather one only just learning about it, reading the book becomes a cumbersome exercise of flipping back and forth between illustrations and backmatter. By doing this, readers find out “huge” is the blue whale; “short” are flat-topped crabs; “bold” are the clownfish that live among poisonous anemones; and “bright” is the luminescent comb jelly. The book has alluring illustrations and well-researched, interesting, and age-appropriate information; it is a pity the two were kept apart.

An imperfect yet captivating introduction to the ocean habitat. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3822-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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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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