NOW YOU SEE THEM, NOW YOU DON'T

POEMS ABOUT CREATURES THAT HIDE

An attractive, informative blend of science and the arts.

Nineteen different animals, placed in five animal categories, are represented first by artwork and poetry and finally by brief paragraphs and references for further reading.

The poems are graceful and often humorous, giving good introductions to the reasons behind each animal’s protective coloration. The illustrations, which involve “drawing, cutting, painting, and gluing,” likewise effectively convey how camouflage works, without pretense of photorealism. The categories—sea life, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, insects and spiders, and birds—reveal a wide variety of animals, from ghost crab to Bengal tiger, walking stick to hawk. An especially funny but accurate poem is the double-page spread about the copperhead, whose letter to “Mr. Vole” is full of sibilance, reinforced in a literal sense: “Find me / if you can, / my sssskin / deceivessss, / helpssss me / dissssappear.” The accompanying art shows the mottled, coppery serpent under a scattering of autumn leaves. In contrast, a fawn hides, scentless, “saved by fawny / polka dots / that blend with / gentle sunny spots.” The text educates young readers about useful camouflage for predators and for prey, without resorting to anything truly disturbing. Other than a “buzzy fly” becoming “fast food” for a spider and some tiny fish disappearing, predators are shown as merely threatening, and prey are shown as successfully hiding. Endnotes, cover, and layout all add to a thoughtful, well-executed book.

An attractive, informative blend of science and the arts. (Informational picture book/poetry. 5-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58089-610-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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CODY HARMON, KING OF PETS

From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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