A solid introduction to wildlife conservation, but it misses the mark in providing a full context for the story.




Anna Merz was determined to protect endangered animals in East Africa.

Poachers were killing rhinos for their horns, and Anna Merz, a white woman at the end of a career in wildlife conservation, decided to do something about it. She started a sanctuary in Kenya on thousands of acres of land called Lewa Downs, on the northern slope of Mount Kenya. Kirk humanizes (rhino-izes?) Anna’s story by focusing on one rhinoceros calf Anna named Samia. Anna reads aloud to Samia, feeds her a special formula, gives her free run of her house, and even learns to interpret some of Samia’s vocalizations. Knowing that Samia needs to learn to be free and able to survive in the wild, Anna finds a patron and creates the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary. Somehow, Kirk imbues Samia with personality without too much anthropomorphizing, and though Anna saves her, Samia saves the story, offering great appeal for young readers and moving the lively narrative along with her antics. As well-rounded a character as Samia is and as heroic as Anna Merz seems, however, no black Africans are included in the story, a void given the Kenya setting. The only other person included is David Craig (in the author’s note), the white owner of the 45,000-acre cattle ranch and donor of land for the wildlife sanctuary.

A solid introduction to wildlife conservation, but it misses the mark in providing a full context for the story. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2316-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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