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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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1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

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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From the What if You Had . . .? series

Another playful imagination-stretcher.

Markle invites children to picture themselves living in the homes of 11 wild animals.

As in previous entries in the series, McWilliam’s illustrations of a diverse cast of young people fancifully imitating wild creatures are paired with close-up photos of each animal in a like natural setting. The left side of one spread includes a photo of a black bear nestling in a cozy winter den, while the right side features an image of a human one cuddled up with a bear. On another spread, opposite a photo of honeybees tending to newly hatched offspring, a human “larva” lounges at ease in a honeycomb cell, game controller in hand, as insect attendants dish up goodies. A child with an eye patch reclines on an orb weaver spider’s web, while another wearing a head scarf constructs a castle in a subterranean chamber with help from mound-building termites. Markle adds simple remarks about each type of den, nest, or burrow and basic facts about its typical residents, then closes with a reassuring reminder to readers that they don’t have to live as animals do, because they will “always live where people live.” A select gallery of traditional homes, from igloo and yurt to mudhif, follows a final view of the young cast waving from a variety of differently styled windows.

Another playful imagination-stretcher. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781339049052

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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