CROCODILE LISTENS

Natural history for the younger set manages to be playful without being precious. Sayre tells the story of the first few hours of a life of a crocodile’s brood in short, sharp sentences that recall her earlier work (Dig, Wait, Listen, p. 505, etc.) and that capture well the African wildlife tumbling around a mother crocodile as she waits for her eggs to hatch. As agreeable for reading aloud as onomatopoeia is (and Sayre enlivens the well-used device with a nuanced sensitivity to rhythm and sound, adding layers of alliteration and assonance to spare prose), the real interest lies in the contrast between the deadly mother and her care for her young—a contrast heightened by the clearly observed pastel illustrations. McAllister Stammen makes the most of her medium, employing traces of purple, blue, and even pink to give the mottled hide of the crocodile a realistic edge, while razor-sharp foregrounds and blurry backgrounds give the vignettes the air of National Geographic photographs. In a striking spread, Crocodile conveys her babies to the Nile in her jaws, the squirming little ones peeping out in a way both startling and fascinating. An author’s note adds few facts that a bright reader would not be able to infer from the story, but it does provide specific scientific information. By refusing to sentimentalize the mother crocodile’s role, the author and illustrator encourage readers to see beyond stereotypes and look at the natural world with a more balanced eye. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16504-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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MY LUCKY DAY

It’s become predictable, this story of the pig outfoxing the fox, but Kasza’s version does sport his lively art and a measure of dry humor. When a piglet comes knocking on Mr. Fox’s door, the fox can’t believe his luck; he’s not used to delivery service. The piglet is just about to be tucked in the oven, when he suggests a few improvements to Mr. Fox. Wouldn’t he taste better if he were washed first—“Just a thought, Mr. Fox”—and plumped up and perhaps massaged to tenderize the meat? The fox agrees that he would, rushing madly about scrubbing, feeding, and working the piglet’s tissues, and promptly falling into an exhausted swoon. The pig is last seen back in his pen, thumbing through his address book—Mr. Bear, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Coyote—getting ready to work the same ruse on another carnivore. Fun enough, though no self-respecting four-year-old will be very worried about this little porker’s fate. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-23874-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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