An uneven tale of a boy saving his city’s zoo.

Young Stu and his mother both love the neighboring zoo. At night, it radiates a great animal music, sometimes soft and sometimes upbeat, but Stu is happy to conduct either like a symphony. Then the action shifts. A fat-cat developer—all skeezy-sleazy, with a nasty comb-over—wants the zoo’s land for a mall and easily buys the city council by padding their pockets. The animals get wind of their fate and take stock. This is the most droll part of the book, with the polar bear “coming apart at the seams.” “Pull yourself together,” instructs the rhino, while the tiger admonishes the slothful sloth to “get your head out of the clouds!” Here readers begin to appreciate that there has been an overarching other-interest all along: that artful expression, the idiom. Then they will start hunting for them: weak at the knees, wear your heart on your sleeve, mad as a wet hen, selling like hotcakes, all ears and wee hours. Which is a good thing, for the story itself is rather artless. Stu conducts the animals in a public forum, and they are a hit. The developer becomes the pooper-scooper at the zoo. One steady hand throughout is Bowers’ artwork—light but lush and charged with character and emotion. As a hunt-and-peck for idioms, this can be fun and even educational; as a story, this can be forgotten. (Picture book. 6-10) 


Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-58536-802-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...


A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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