Little Known Fact: lots of cheery text, exclamation marks and trendy electronic devices do not necessarily add up to a...

MEMOIRS OF AN ELF

Santa’s head elf delivers an hour-by-hour report as he and two other male elves assist Santa with his Christmas Eve deliveries, as well as an emergency delivery on Christmas morning.

This 21st-century elf uses a smartphone, takes “elfies” and communicates with the North Pole with a phone headset. Santa needs his head elf to keep him on track to get through the night, so the elf urges him along with a text: “Time to fly, big guy!” Each page indicates the number of hours left until Christmas morning along with the sleigh’s current location, problems solved and a feature called “Little Known Facts.” For example, “Santa loves dogs and dogs love Santa.” The deliveries are completed by sunrise, but Santa and the elves find a stowaway dog named Tugboat hiding in the bottom of the toy bag, necessitating a return trip. The story tries hard to be humorous and up-to-the-minute, but it is neither new nor particularly funny. Cartoon-style illustrations are adequate but also rather pedestrian. Mrs. Claus is the only female character, holding a tray with hot chocolate and yelling at the menfolk to do the right thing. A 21st-century Mrs. Claus might grab some gal-pal elves and return that dog herself. Although the elves are all male, the general elf crew is multiethnic, and the head, protagonist elf has warm, brown skin and straight black hair—perhaps he's Asian or Latino. In any event, he and his brethren represent a step forward for ethnic elf diversity.

Little Known Fact: lots of cheery text, exclamation marks and trendy electronic devices do not necessarily add up to a successful Christmas story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-58536-910-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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 good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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