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Weirdly fascinating.

“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. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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“Humans are lucky to have rodents,” Munro argues…and makes her case with equal warmth to hearts and minds.

Twenty-one representatives of the largest mammalian order pose in this fetching portrait gallery.

Each one depicted, all or in part, at actual size, the rodentine array begins with a pocket-watch–size African pygmy jerboa and concludes with the largest member of the clan, the “sweet-looking capybara.” In between, specimens climb the scale past chipmunks and northern flying squirrels to a Norway rat, porcupine, and groundhog. Despite a few outliers such as the naked mole rat and a rather aggressive-looking beaver, Munro’s animals—particularly her impossibly cute guinea pig—strongly exude shaggy, button-eyed appeal. Her subjects may come across as eye candy, but they are drawn with naturalistic exactitude, and in her accompanying descriptive comments, she often relates certain visible features to distinctive habitats and behaviors. She also has a terrific feel for the memorable fact: naked mole rats run as quickly backward in their tunnels as forward; African giant pouched rats have been trained to sniff out mines; the house mouse “is a romantic. A male mouse will sing squeaky love songs to his girlfriend” (that are, fortunately or otherwise, too high for humans to hear). Closing summaries will serve budding naturalists in need of further specifics about sizes, diets, geographical ranges, and the like.

“Humans are lucky to have rodents,” Munro argues…and makes her case with equal warmth to hearts and minds. (websites, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3860-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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An ill-conceived exercise in anthropomorphism.

Over 100 wild animals describe their jobs in human terms.

As a useful premise or even a viable conceit, this is an abject failure as nonfiction. Giving all 112 creatures introduced here different occupations, Hunt misleads with artificial cognates: the hyena tells readers: “I am a comedian”; the porcupine announces: “I am an acupuncturist.” One- or two-sentence explanatory notes often muddy the waters further: “I laugh hysterically to show how important I am in the group,” the hyena says. Moreover, an opening assertion that in nature animals help “their neighbors to have better lives,” coupled with a scarcity of specific references thereafter to predators and prey, is just disingenuous…as is a claim later on that indigenous species in the Hawaiian Islands and those that were introduced more recently, such as the Indian mongoose (shown here robbing a bird’s nest), “work side by side.” The collectively produced cartoon illustrations (“Muti” is a studio) feature both individual portraits and ensemble views of each animal, generally smiling, in one of 14 relatively specific habitats, from the “Kenyan savanna in Africa” to a Washington state backyard (where honeybees are inaccurately housed in a paper-wasps’ nest).

An ill-conceived exercise in anthropomorphism. (index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-84780-972-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Wide Eyed Editions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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