Important though the lesson is, this is too didactic and unrealistic to help children facing similar situations.


A laughless hyena regains his giggle in this debut from Jantzen and Claude.

Henry Hyena, who lives in a zoo, is having a blue day. He just doesn’t find the usual things funny—not the storks’ wobbly knees or an elephant’s burp—and he won’t join in with the other hyenas’ tricks, which include chasing the hares and cutting holes in the llamas’ new socks. “Now this kind of thing / is really quite rare / for hyenas always / laugh without care.” Dr. Long, a giraffe, knows exactly what’s troubling Henry: “It’s not that you’re sick, and you’re far from a fool. / You’ve just learned that laughing at others is cruel.” Suddenly enlightened, Henry goes on to teach the other hyenas about being nice to others, and just like that, they transform into the nicest animals in the zoo, and Henry’s laugh returns. While the verse is mostly reliable with regard to rhythm and rhyme, the words seem chosen just for their rhymes rather than to enhance or advance the story. Claude’s digital illustrations use bright colors and white backgrounds to focus readers’ attention. Children will have no doubt as to how the animals are feeling, especially the butts of the hyenas’ jokes and tricks.

Important though the lesson is, this is too didactic and unrealistic to help children facing similar situations. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2822-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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. 29, 2018

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.


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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