THE EMPEROR LAYS AN EGG

Pity the poor papa penguin as he perseveres in protecting his precious progeny. He has to care for the emperor penguin egg by himself through two months of windy winter weather (“Screech, whoooo!”) while the mother penguin is off searching for food. Guiberson (Tales of the Haunted Deep, 2000, etc.) has crafted a nonfiction narrative that imparts general information about the birth cycle of emperor penguins in combination with the more engaging story of a specific mother and father penguin caring for their own egg and the resulting chick. This gives more dramatic impact to the text, but is a little confusing at times with intertwined discussions of both the larger penguin group and references to the father and mother. Interesting factoids and interspersed parenthetical references to penguin sounds or movements (“Waddle, waddle”) add extra punch to the text. Paley’s (Little White Duck, 2000, etc.) stellar watercolor collage illustrations in vibrant double-page spreads steal the show, with midnight blue skies, downy gray penguin chicks, and graphically striking adult penguins. Although The Emperor’s Egg, by Martin Jenkins (1999), covers similar territory, school and public libraries will find this title useful for elementary school science reports, and nature lovers will love the pictures. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6204-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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DIARY OF A SPIDER

The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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