Clever but of limited use.



In loose, mostly free-verse poems, readers learn a lot about a variety of hoofed animals.

The lesser mouse-deer, for example, is “Only 12 inches tall, / 18 inches long, / and 4.5 pounds in weight.” And the Arabian oryx “was the first (nearly) extinct animal / to be returned to the wild.” Each entry is accompanied by an illustration of the animal in question, in renderings that vary from cartoony depictions to splashy watercolors, often with a hint of the surreal. While each poem contains at least a nugget of interesting information, and many use humor (scatological or otherwise), several may find a less appreciative audience in the United States than they did in the Netherlands. The poem about the wild Bactrian camel, for example, references a harem and uses the slur “lame”; the hippopotamus entry relies in part on fatphobia for effect; and the Japanese serow’s poem opens by just throwing out a variety of Japanese words including Toyota and Sudoku. As it’s a translation, it’s hard to say exactly where these choices originate. The collection does neatly balance humor with scientific information, but poetry lovers may be daunted by the scantily leaded small type, and children who want to learn about animals are more likely to seek books with more robust nonfiction elements (though they may appreciate the factual backmatter).

Clever but of limited use. (further reading) (Picture book/poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5548-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature.


From the Over and Under series

In a new entry in the Over and Under series, a paddleboarder glimpses humpback whales leaping, floats over a populous kelp forest, and explores life on a beach and in a tide pool.

In this tale inspired by Messner’s experiences in Monterey Bay in California, a young tan-skinned narrator, along with their light-skinned mom and tan-skinned dad, observes in quiet, lyrical language sights and sounds above and below the sea’s serene surface. Switching perspectives and angles of view and often leaving the family’s red paddleboards just tiny dots bobbing on distant swells, Neal’s broad seascapes depict in precise detail bat stars and anchovies, kelp bass, and sea otters going about their business amid rocky formations and the swaying fronds of kelp…and, further out, graceful moon jellies and—thrillingly—massive whales in open waters beneath gliding pelicans and other shorebirds. After returning to the beach at day’s end to search for shells and to spot anemones and decorator crabs, the child ends with nighttime dreams of stars in the sky meeting stars in the sea. Appended nature notes on kelp and 21 other types of sealife fill in details about patterns and relationships in this rich ecosystem. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-79720-347-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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