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 charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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