A splendid tribute to the world and its splendors, with something to offer audiences of a broad range of ages.



Readers are invited to reflect on life with the help of animals.

Addressing readers directly, the narrator opens with a modest statement: “Life begins small.” See an elephant grow bigger as it walks underneath the fierce sun and gentle moon, through days and nights. Life, it seems, also promises change—and wonders. A hawk soars in the sky, while elsewhere, a camel stands tall in a desert. Sitting on a rock, a turtle relishes the “rain on its back.” Each glimpse of an animal in the natural world elicits a small jolt of joy thanks in part to Caldecott honoree Wenzel’s exquisite illustrations, which render these moments with low-key precision. On one page, dark and soft blues bathe an adult elephant and its smaller companion, both gray beacons in a picture of a nighttime march. On another page, a snake blends in with the smeared greens, yellowed brown, and hints of reds that make up the grass. But even with all these merry images, moments of bleakness can follow. The narrator proposes another fact: “Life is not always easy.” A small bird flies alone and vulnerable through a storm, seeming lost before it finally breaks through. Thankfully, Rylant keeps the narratorial voice direct and brief during scenes serene or frightful. Flashes of levity in the illustrations and text (think “grassssssssssss”) serve to underscore the creators’ trust in readers.

A splendid tribute to the world and its splendors, with something to offer audiences of a broad range of ages. (Picture book. 4-adult)

Pub Date: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5162-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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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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