“This is a true tale about two mighty nations, an ill-fated pig, and a most unusual war. It is also a story about sharing.”

That opening, in black, sans-serif lettering, is followed by further text that’s broken up by red-inked headings for date, setting, characters, and mood. Continuing a jaunty, lighthearted tone that proceeds throughout the text, it informs readers that the mood is “About to change, for the worse.” The verso sports an antique-looking map of the Western Hemisphere with a detail of San Juan—a Pacific Northwest coast island of, in 1859, ambiguous provenance inhabited both by British employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and a few American settlers. (The original, Indigenous residents are relegated to a parenthetical mention in the author’s note and figure not at all in the story.) As the story begins, an American named Lyman Cutlar angrily kills Brit Charles Griffin’s pig as it eats from Cutlar’s potato patch. Cutlar apologizes and offers to pay for the pig but then refuses to pay Griffin’s exorbitant asking price. Enter authorities from both nations in an escalation that eventually involves scores of warships. When war seems inevitable, Gen. Winfield Scott is sent by President James Buchanan to mediate. The text is true to its introduction, and it also pursues the idea that hotheadedness leads to disastrous consequences. Vocabulary, verbosity, and content suit this for older elementary, independent readers. The storytelling goes a bit flat at the end, when Cutlar is mentioned but not Griffin. Colorful, stylized art against apparently distressed surfaces is an impeccable complement. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 42.6% of actual size.)

Weirdly fascinating. (photographs, timeline, resources, artist’s note) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-171-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Overall, an appealing collection for readers who like superlatives.



Outsize animals have thrived in diverse environments since before the age of dinosaurs and can still be found today.

The prolific Gifford here introduces a selection of some of the largest reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish, birds, and insects ever to live on Earth. The information is presented in topical spreads, with one to several big animals to a page. On the introductory spread, Gifford speculates about possible reasons for such extraordinary sizes. An accompanying illustration shows a brown-skinned scientist studying fossils in the field. Gifford’s selections are organized into three sections, covering animals of the past on land and in water followed by animals of today. Short descriptions of each animal make up most of the text. Each spread includes silhouettes comparing the sizes of the animals on the page to a human adult and child. A center gatefold shows a timeline of life on Earth, and a final spread introduces some smaller animals that are the largest of their kind (the goliath frog, the Komodo dragon). Gray’s illustrations feature colorful dinosaurs and accurately portrayed modern animals, many in appropriate environments. The clear organization and bite-sized chunks of information make this quite accessible to young lovers of animals past and present. No sources are provided, but a paleontologist is credited as consultant.

Overall, an appealing collection for readers who like superlatives. (index) (Nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-78312-850-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Welbeck Children's

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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Weak of content but heartfelt of tone and with eye-catching illustrations.



Intricate cut-paper montages featuring almost invisibly embedded wild animals accompany a plea to be concerned about threatened and endangered species.

Arranged along the lines of their previous search-and-find outings, Animal Habitats (2019) and Animal Camouflage (2017), the book presents a sampling of the endangered animals found in each of seven generic habitats: rainforest, desert, ocean, savanna, mountains, forest, and polar. Dennis highlights Hutchinson’s brief introductions to select wildlife first with a set of technically adroit individual cut-paper portraits and then, with a page turn, a challenging full-page collective tangle of flora and fauna tailor made for poring over. The author hasn’t really done his homework, as he hilariously mischaracterizes the black rhino as a “gentle giant” and also supplies incorrect “Red List” ratings for several entries, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Furthermore, of the nine chosen examples in each group, two or three at one end of the spread are rated “least concern” or “data deficient” (and therefore quite possibly not threatened) on the IUCN List, and one or two at the opposite end are already “extinct” or “extinct in the wild”—which rather cuts down on the number of creatures on display that are actually endangered. Poor copy editing also compromises the presentation’s effectiveness.

Weak of content but heartfelt of tone and with eye-catching illustrations. (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61689-940-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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