Solid beginners’ zoology.

KOALA

Through the home-seeking journey of one young, male koala, readers learn general facts about these Australian natives.

As the story opens, the koala wakes and attempts to nurse but is spurned by his mother. His story is presented in large type, with display type for the text’s gentle exhortations: “Climb, little Koala. It’s time to find your own way.” Smaller print offers additional information for older readers: the mother is pregnant, so now she will ignore her joey. This format continues throughout, as the koala eats eucalyptus and searches for a new arboreal home. The text is not sparse, but it has been thoughtfully composed for young readers and listeners. On the first page, the koala is described as “tall as a toddler,” with “paws perfect for climbing.” When he decides against climbing a tree because the bark stinks, the small print explains that the koala is smelling an odor from another male’s scent gland; the tree is previously claimed. Watercolor illustrations follow the text closely, showing the koala through days and nights, in all kinds of weather, and using an unusual, kangaroolike gait when he flees from a snake. Relatively challenging words such as “hesitates,” “sapling,” and “leaf litter” are evident from the context of words and pictures, and “marsupial” is explained early on. The koala’s trials are real, but they are also brief enough to assuage any reader anxiety.

Solid beginners’ zoology. (fact page, index) (Informational picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9481-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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This heartwarming story of a boy and his beloved dog opens the door for further study of our 16th president.

HONEY, THE DOG WHO SAVED ABE LINCOLN

A slice of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood life is explored through a fictionalized anecdote about his dog Honey.

When 7-year-old Abe rescues a golden-brown dog with a broken leg, he takes the pup home to the Lincolns’ cabin in Knob Creek, Kentucky. Honey follows Abe everywhere, including trailing after his owner into a deep cave. When Abe gets stuck between rocks, Honey goes for help and leads a search party back to the trapped boy for a dramatic rescue. The source for this story was a book incorporating the memories of Abe’s boyhood friend, explained in an author’s note. The well-paced text includes invented dialogue attributed to Abe and his parents. Abe’s older sister, Sarah, is not mentioned in the text and is shown in the illustrations as a little girl younger than Abe. All the characters present white save for one black man in the rescue crew. An oversized format and multiple double-page spreads provide plenty of space for cartoon-style illustrations of the Lincoln cabin, the surrounding countryside, and the spooky cave where Abe was trapped. This story focuses on the incident in the cave and Abe’s rescue; a more complete look at Lincoln’s life is included in an appended timeline and the author’s note, both of which include references to Lincoln’s kindness to animals and to other pets he owned.

This heartwarming story of a boy and his beloved dog opens the door for further study of our 16th president. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-269900-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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