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A charming idea that misses in the execution.

When night falls, the creatures of the night gather to hear stories.

Crawlers, beetles, voles, mice, bats, nighthawks, they come. “Fireflies light the way. The north wind blows, branches sway and part…the twilight library stirs to life. Critters gather round in a circle while…the Night Librarian descends on silver strings and unravels the story threads.” What follows certainly tickles each of the senses with talk of “indigo mountaintops,” “tangy berries,” “whisker kisses,” “wispy wood smoke,” “the song of cicadas.” But after this sumptuous scene is set, readers are jolted abruptly out of the book as the spider “weaves the final scene…of feasting, of dancing, of daring that saves the day….” After all the sensory setup, that’s all readers get of the tale the Night Librarian actually tells. Meanwhile, the listeners are enraptured, emerging from the threads of the story only when dawn arrives to send them to their individual dreams. Soft dreamlike colors suffuse the scenes, the twilight library depicted charmingly as books suspended on the threads of a spiderweb. The animals sport golden crowns when their imaginations make them part of the story being woven; aside from the beetles sitting like humans and the unrealistic gathering of these disparate (sometimes predator-prey) animals, they are not anthropomorphized. A few of the scenes are so hazy that readers may have difficulty parsing them. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A charming idea that misses in the execution. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4496-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Warm but underdone.

In this picture book from actor Gyllenhaal and his partner, Caruso, a child and his uncle bond on a fantastic journey.

Leo, an avid dancer, is dismayed when Uncle Mo visits—he’s in town for a “rubber band convention.” Illustrations show both with wavy brown hair and light tan skin. Not only does Leo think his uncle is rather dull, he’s also leery of Uncle Mo’s many rules. A rather abrupt narrative shift occurs when the pair inexplicably drive into another dimension. Here they encounter Great-Aunt Gloria (who is very tall and presents Black) and Uncle Munkle Carbunkle (who is very short and light-skinned), who guide them through the Secret Society of Aunts & Uncles. Unimpressed with Uncle Mo, Great-Aunt Gloria says he must take a quiz on “Auntieology and Uncleology.” After several wrong answers, Uncle Mo has a final chance at redemption: He must state his nephew’s favorite activity. When Leo springs into action to dance for his clueless uncle, a mishap leaves him mortified and un-bespectacled. Enter Uncle Mo to save the day by using a rubber band to secure Leo’s glasses. While Santat’s energetic illustrations do much to clarify the narrative, they can’t fully make up for the disjointed storytelling—it’s never clear why the two have entered this dimension or why Leo is suddenly so eager to help Uncle Mo. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Warm but underdone. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781250776990

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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