Appealing in subject and presentation, this will be a welcome addition to primary-grade nonfiction collections.

BIG RED KANGAROO

In the hot, dry lands of central Australia, big Red leads his band of kangaroos through a night.

A band of kangaroos is called a mob, and Red is the mob leader. Not only must he lead his group to the woods for shelter from nighttime storms and daytime heat and to grassy areas for food, he must keep a wary eye out for other male kangaroos (potential challengers) and other enemies. The text is presented in dual narratives. One, surprisingly lyrical, focuses on Red’s activities; the other, straightforward and distinguished by an italicized typeface, adds details about kangaroo behavior in general. Charcoal drawings digitally splashed with the brick red of that dusty world show the band and some of the plants and animals that share their world: clumps of spinifex grasses, wallaroos, thorny devils, dingos, a goanna and a spinifex hopping mouse. Although these are identified in the text, readers with no prior knowledge of Australian flora and fauna might find the attractive art a little too allusive for easy understanding. But the narrative arc will keep them engaged and perhaps inspire further research. The book concludes with general information about kangaroos. The front endpapers show kangaroo tracks, repeated in many illustrations.

Appealing in subject and presentation, this will be a welcome addition to primary-grade nonfiction collections. (index) (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7075-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Hee haw.

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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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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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