Overall, clever: entomology via etymology.

DO DOODLEBUGS DOODLE?

Funny speculation is made about the common names of 11 insects, after which a few facts are offered.

The text is playful, introducing each insect with a question in bold, dark print, beginning with, “Do dragonflies breathe fire?” After the colorful, cartoonish artwork expands on the theme with visions of treasure chests in sand and children dressed as pirates and knights battling fire-equipped dragonflies, the page turn reveals a larger image of the insect along with a definitive “No!” This is followed by information about the unique way a dragonfly catches its prey. The text is pleasingly consistent in this approach, and it offers a nice little surprise with the final bug—plus additional, accessible notes about insects. Unfortunately, the art is less successful than the text. While care was given to different skin and eye colors for the many children pictured with the bugs, there is an awkwardness in the renderings of the children’s movements, penciled noses, and frequently open, often toothless mouths. Composition and layout tend to produce an uncomfortable feeling of crowding, which in turn makes it hard to linger on any one page. It’s great to have large, fantastical bugs, flies, and beetles on the pages with whimsical questions, but the perspective on the pages that offer factual text makes it hard to know insects’ true relative sizes.

Overall, clever: entomology via etymology. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-943978-35-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Persnickety Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Bruce Goldstone’s Awesome Autumn (2012) is still the gold standard.

HELLO AUTUMN!

Rotner follows Hello Spring (2017) with this salute to the fall season.

Name a change seen in northern climes in fall, and Rotner likely covers it here, from plants, trees, and animals to the food we harvest: seeds are spread, the days grow shorter and cooler, the leaves change and fall (and are raked up and jumped in), some animals migrate, and many families celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. As in the previous book, the photographs (presented in a variety of sizes and layouts, all clean) are the stars here, displaying both the myriad changes of the season and a multicultural array of children enjoying the outdoors in fall. These are set against white backgrounds that make the reddish-orange print pop. The text itself uses short sentences and some solid vocabulary (though “deep sleep” is used instead of “hibernate”) to teach readers the markers of autumn, though in the quest for simplicity, Rotner sacrifices some truth. In several cases, the addition of just a few words would have made the following oversimplified statements reflect reality: “Birds grow more feathers”; “Cranberries float and turn red.” Also, Rotner includes the statement “Bees store extra honey in their hives” on a page about animals going into deep sleep, implying that honeybees hibernate, which is false.

Bruce Goldstone’s Awesome Autumn (2012) is still the gold standard. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3869-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp.

LLAMA UNLEASHES THE ALPACALYPSE

From the Llama Book series

Llamas, alpacas, and clones—oh my!

In this sequel to Llama Destroys the World (2019), hapless Llama once again wreaks unintentional, large-scale havoc—but this time, he (sort of) saves the day, too. After making an epic breakfast (and epic mess), Llama decides to build a machine that will enable him to avoid cleaning up. No, not a vacuum or dishwasher: It’s a machine that Llama uses to clone his friend “of impeccable tidiness,” Alpaca, in order to create an “army of cleaners.” Cream-colored Llama and light-brown Alpaca, both male, are pear shaped with short, stubby legs, bland expressions, and bulging eyes. Paired with the cartoon illustrations, the text’s comic timing shines: “Llama invited Alpaca over for lunch. / Llama invited Alpaca into the Replicator 3000. / And then, Llama invited disaster.” Soon the house is full of smiling Alpacas in purple scalloped aprons, single-mindedly cleaning—and, as one might expect, things don’t go as planned. Mealtimes (i.e. “second lunch” and dinner) offer opportunities for the “alpacalypse” to emerge from Llama’s house into the wider world. Everyday life grinds to a halt as the myriad Alpacas bearing mops, dusters, and plungers continue their cleaning crusade with no signs of stopping. That is, until the Alpacas realize they are hungry….It’s all very funny, but the sight of the paler-coated Llama exploiting the darker-coated Alpaca, for whom nothing brings “more joy than cleaning,” is an uncomfortable one.

For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22285-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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