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 30, 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 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.


Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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