The layout and concept deserve better material.

TOOLING AROUND

CRAFTY CREATURES AND THE TOOLS THEY USE

The use of tools by nonhuman animals is explored via 11 animals, each with its own watercolor portrait, rhymed couplet and explanatory gloss.

Unfortunately, in the attempt to rhyme, most of the couplets fail to be clear or memorable. Even the prose is not always clear, as in “Elephants strip leaves from branches. They use the stripped branches to swat flies or other insects that bite them.” (Are the “other insects” attacking the flies or the elephants?) The author’s note is equally difficult to read, perhaps attempting, but failing, to adapt to beginning readers. Probably the best verse—and also the most whimsical art—is this: “Here’s a deer who’s quite well dressed, / wearing grass to look his best.” The single sentence that follows adds, anthropomorphically, “Male red deer smear their antlers with mud or grass to appear bigger and fiercer to other males and more attractive to females.” The sturdy stag is staring into the distance, its antlers interlaced with ferns and grasses. Depictions of flora and fauna show excellent composition and promising, if overworked, artistry, but at the book’s beginning and end, awkward paintings of children sadly match dismally unimaginative verses: “Tools help us everywhere, / on the earth and in the air.” Alas: Where are the limericks of yore, with the pelican whose “bill can hold more than his belican”?

The layout and concept deserve better material. (author’s note, list of animals’ habitat ranges, resources for children, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-58089-564-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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