Grade-schoolers interested in science and nature—but not too old for talking animals—will find a lot to interest them here.


Tino the Tortoise


A tortoise tourist and his desert-rodent buddy make their way to the Grand Canyon to exchange recipes in this travel adventure by debut author Ahern and veteran illustrator Brooks (Dog Diaries: Secret Writings of the WOOF Society, 2016, etc.).

Tino the tortoise and Rudi the jerboa, who live in the Mojave Desert, decide to travel to Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest to present a new recipe for pine seeds to Penny, a Kaibab squirrel who’s bored of eating her favorite meal the same old ways. Tino is apparently a savvy traveler; when Rudi says that they should go on a trip, Tino immediately makes plans and starts booking tourist excursions. After a train ride to what a helpful owl calls a “big hole in the ground,” the friends take a mule ride, do some whitewater rafting, and finally make it to the north rim of the canyon and the ponderosa pine trees where the Kaibab squirrels make their home. During their journey, the friends ask directions at every stop, which allows readers to learn more about the squirrels and their habitat but also contrasts with Tino’s pre-made travel plans. Brooks’ humanoid animals experience the Grand Canyon in the same ways that a young human visitor might. The casting is clever: a park ranger is a raccoon (reminiscent of Ranger Rick); a cougar rents out unflappable (nonhumanoid) mules; and a ranch-owning rabbit warns the travelers against getting in the way of big-horn sheep or sitting on rattlesnakes. Brooks depicts the humanlike animals differently enough that it doesn’t feel strange for other, more traditional animals to act like their real-world counterparts. The descriptions of the travelers’ adventures are appealing, and kids are sure to want to experience them in person. Details about animal habitats and traits, particularly those of the rare Kaibab squirrel, may also help spark an interest in nature. Some pages are dense with text, which may intimidate some younger readers, but the pictures are dominant enough to hold lap-readers’ interest.

Grade-schoolers interested in science and nature—but not too old for talking animals—will find a lot to interest them here.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941821-45-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2015

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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. 29, 2018

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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