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This one’s for the birds.

Sparrows aren’t birdbrains!

When a little sparrow leaves her nest to investigate the big city, she starts on a journey that takes her all over New York City. Adopting the name Scoot—from the bustling pedestrians who constantly tell her to move aside—the sparrow meets older bird Scram, who shows her the ropes of living in the big city. Flying around a stylized Manhattan, the duo meet other sparrows, and the band of birds work together under Scoot’s leadership to help migrating birds overcome the confusing glow of the city at night. Overcome with pride, Scoot and company rename themselves with more stylish monikers. Like real sparrows on the sidewalk, the story jumps and flutters erratically. The plot isn’t helped by a rhyme scheme that doesn’t always work: “ ‘You need street smarts,’ / chirped an older bird. ‘Hop right! Hop left! / Like so, kid: / GO!’ / ‘Okay,’ she told him. / ‘I’ll give it a try.’ / In two smart hops, / she snatched / a French fry!” Combined with busy gouache and pencil illustrations, the book feels confounded and cluttered. The brief description of New York City Audubon’s program “Lights Out New York,” which, Manushkin explains in her author’s note, encourages buildings to turn off their lights during migration season, is interesting but doesn’t integrate smoothly. Overall, this is an intriguing idea but poorly executed. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

This one’s for the birds. (illustrator’s note, list of NYC landmarks featured in the story, list of birds included in the book) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4254-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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From the Elephant & Piggie series

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

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. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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A close encounter of the best kind.

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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