Budding naturalists, even younger ones, can easily find more dependable and systematic guides to their backyard biota.



Digital tweaks add interactive features to this edition of an insect ABC (originally packaged in 2007 as a book/CD set).

The 26 alphabetically arranged entrants include such usual suspects as the Ladybug and Praying mantis, along with the less-familiar likes of the Velvet ant and Olive fruit fly. Each gets a close-up painted portrait done in an arbitrary range of styles from photorealism to crayon sketch, a perfunctory rhymed caption—“The inchworm likes to crawl around / and eat leaves every day…”—and, with a tap on the highlighted name, a boxed snippet of explanation or further detail. A menu can be opened on any screen that allows skipping, starting over and replacing the optional audio reading with a self-recording. Problems abound. The Japanese beetle illustrated is either a rare variety or some other sort of beetle. Along with failing to mention that the Inchworm is a caterpillar or that it and the other three larvae included in the alphabetical roster will look different as adults, the author incorrectly claims that Unicorn caterpillars lay eggs. Her observation that a sawfly (Xyelidae) is “like a wasp but not the same” is both unexplained in the verse and contradicted in the accompanying note. She also characterizes collecting Fireflies in a jar as a “fun activity” but neglects to recommend letting them go afterward.

Budding naturalists, even younger ones, can easily find more dependable and systematic guides to their backyard biota. (iPad informational app. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2014


Page Count: -

Publisher: Oceanhouse Media

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Hee haw.

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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 jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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