High-interest topic; low-budget production.

WOW, I DIDN'T KNOW THAT!

SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT ANIMALS

Surrounded by pithy commentary, dozens of common animals bound, stride, swim or otherwise pose against high-contrast monochrome backdrops in this unvarnished attempt to amaze.

Both facts and factoids are offered in a mix of floating text blocks and undulating lines in a larger size. The tidbits of natural history range from peculiar features (“Goats have rectangular pupils!”) to notes on common sizes or weights, feats of speed or migratory travel. Much of the need-to-know “information” centers on alimentary issues, such as the amount of poop an elephant produces every day (110 pounds) and how long it takes a gobbled-down fly to travel through a hummingbird (10 minutes). But the author provides no source notes to expand on or back up her claims. Furthermore, though Aspinall arranges his smiling but recognizably depicted creatures in loosely thematic groups with the occasional paw or tail serving as transition to the next spread, there is no sense of closure; a tiger’s face cut off by the gutter on the last page brings the presentation to an abrupt end.

High-interest topic; low-budget production. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7534-7117-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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An ideal introduction to this familiar waterfowl—readers will enjoy diving right in.

JUST DUCKS!

Mallard ducks catch the attention of an observant young narrator. Join in on her day’s travels to learn a lot about these quacking creatures.

Quacks appear in graduated type from large to small to begin this informational gem. The daily activities of a young girl propel the easy-flowing language full of ducky details. Perfectly placed additional facts in smaller and similar-in-tone text are included on each spread. These seamless complements serve to explain unfamiliar terms such as “preening,” “dabbling” and “upending.” While Davies’ text gently informs, Rubbino’s mixed-media illustrations, done in a subdued palette of watery greens, grays and browns, truly impress. Mama ducks, drakes and ducklings alike hold the focus as they nest, search for food, swim, splash and sleep. The loose and childlike pictures capture essential details: the “secret patch of blue on each wing” and the “cute little curl on their tails.” At the end of the day (and book), readers find “The bridge is quiet, and there’s just the sound of rushing water and the stillness of the night.” But the page turn reveals another morning of “ducks—just ducks, down on the river that flows through the town.”

An ideal introduction to this familiar waterfowl—readers will enjoy diving right in. (index, note) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5936-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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