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THE POLAR BEARS ARE HUNGRY

A confusing ending mars this otherwise attractive repeat collaboration between Carrick and her son Paul (Mothers Are Like That, 2000). Snug in their den, a mother polar bear nurses and cares for her two cubs. When they grow older, mother bear takes them out and teaches them to hunt seals. She is hungry from the months spent in the den, so obtaining food is her primary concern. But as summer nears, the pack ice breaks up, and the polar bears can no longer catch seals; they wander the shores, hungry. Eventually they come to a village, where people attempt to drive them off, and ultimately drug them and move them, “to a special jail for bears.” The simple language of the text does the story a disservice here, where it is not clear what is meant by a “special jail.” Is it a zoo? Are the bears in danger? In the next spread, the bears are loose again, hunting seal, and it’s only in the long author’s note that readers learn that polar bears threatening humans are captured (and given water but no food, to make them less likely to return) and held until pack ice forms again. Acrylic illustrations capture the bears and seals perfectly, but the humans seem stiff and caricatured. A good choice for the classroom, where teachers can explain the context, but likely to confuse younger listeners. (Fiction. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-15962-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

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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