MOTHER TO TIGERS

This true story, although slight, will go right to the hearts of young animal lovers. In the 1940s, Helen Martini started to care for baby animals her husband brought home temporarily from his job at the Bronx Zoo. Knowing that not all needy animal babies could come to their apartment, Martini offered to start a nursery at the zoo and then became its first female zookeeper. In spare, lyrical prose, Lyon (Gina. Jamie. Father. Bear, 2002, etc.) begins before the title page with a second-person prologue to draw children in, starting, “Suppose you were a lion cub—abandoned.” Then in the more conventional third-person, she conveys Martini’s story and her pleasure in her work with well-chosen details, many of them about animals. The illustrations alternate luminous watercolor with charcoal drawings on brown paper, each picture shown on torn paper and arranged on the page like tiger’s stripes. This design choice varies in its effectiveness, making some pages look cluttered while those with one large picture paired with a simple colored stripe work well. Catalanotto’s (Matthew ABC, 2002, etc.) watercolors, which outshine the charcoal drawings, are especially breathtaking in the close-ups of lion and tiger faces. An afterword tells more about Martini and her accomplishments as well as how Lyon learned about her. A photograph on the back cover of the author at the Bronx Zoo as a ten-year-old, holding a book by Helen Martini, adds another personal note. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-84221-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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