I LOVE GUINEA PIGS

Another sure-to-be-popular addition to the "Read and Wonder" series of nonfiction picture books, for which this author and illustrator created All Pigs Are Beautiful (1993). King-Smith has a genius for making even simple texts a pleasure to read; his fondness for guinea pigs gives the straight facts in this book an air of excitement. The history of their name, their place in the animal kingdom, their life cycle, their varieties, and basic care facts (they are easy to keep) are all presented, along with portraits of some of King-Smith's favorite pets. He is honest about their relatively short life span (five to eight years) but softens this by saying that he likes to look at the apple tree under which his favorite two guinea pigs are buried and think about how much he enjoyed the time they had together. Jeram's watercolor and line illustrations match the tone of the text. The pictures are clearly composed, full of pudgy pets; plenty of white space balances the text and illustrations, making this a good selection for readers who are ready to go beyond easy books, but still need an inviting format. Some facts come in the form of hand-lettered captions under spot illustrations that smoothly enhance the running text. The depiction of older children in the book will ensure that middle grade readers looking for tips on care will also find this appealing. Useful for any collection or on any shelf near fellow guinea-pig lovers. (Picture book. 4+)

Pub Date: March 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-56402-389-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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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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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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