An easy reader that may be used as fodder for group discussion.

The Escape: Naughty Bluejay & Woodpecker

Henney (Princess Trinka and Basil, 2015, etc.) returns to the forest with a quaint story of two feathered friends who discover there’s no place like home.

Two bird friends—a naughty blue jay and an industrious woodpecker—live in an aviary but want to be out in the free, wild world. This gentle story has a predictable plot, as the two birds escape, have a couple of misadventures with unfriendly birds and scary human noises, and then long for the safety and comforts of home. This modest tale can be read by children 6 and older, and it’s accompanied by cute black-and-white drawings, such as of the wide-eyed birds as they cry fat tears of joy after returning home. The book’s tone is soft and the text sometimes directly addresses readers; for example, Woodpecker, alone and frightened in the forest, hears loud, human noises, and the narrator asks, “Do you suppose it was some children with BB guns shooting at the birds and little animals? Maybe they did not realize that the forest was home to so many different birds and animals.” When Bluejay and Woodpecker plot their escape from the aviary, the book’s style is reminiscent of a Highlights magazine hidden-pictures puzzle as the narrator asks readers if they can find the blue jay. (He’s relatively easy to find.) There are also humorous moments, such as when the blue jay earns the nickname “Naughty” from humans, after doing things like swooping down and raking his claws through an aviary helper’s hair. Some of the wild animals are aggressive, but others are likable, such as an owl who stands at the entrance of the woodpecker’s tree hole and turns out to be a friendly sort. Children and parents may question why two common birds like a blue jay and a woodpecker are being confined in the first place, but this story could effectively complement a study of conservation, captivity, and animals in the wild. It could also be used in a lesson on how the grass always seems greener on the other side.

An easy reader that may be used as fodder for group discussion. 

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5030-2228-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2015

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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