The wildfire is all that sparks here.



A black bear ushers her two cubs through their first seasonal round.

The writer and the illustrator both turn in bland, uninspired work. Frequently inserting intrusive or unnatural sound effects—“Ooh-Ooh-Coo! Ooh-Ooh-Coo! The twins nurse on milk thicker than cream, their little motors thrumming until they sleep”—Wadsworth leads the three bears out of the den to munch late-winter grass. Later, Bear rescues her cubs from an icy creek (“Crack! Snap! Whoosh! Roar!”) and in summer, drives off a male bear. Suddenly it’s autumn: the bears flee a wildfire, gobble up acorns, and then, as snow falls, squeeze back into the cozy den. With similar lack of variety or feeling, San Souci poses his bears in generic woods and meadows, oddly oblivious both to a line of tourists standing a few feet away in one scene and, in another, to glaring headlights while lumbering (not, as the narrative has it, “dashing”) across a road. In the confrontation scene he also neglects to pick up on the author’s remark in her concluding note that female bears are “much smaller” than males. David Martin’s Shh! Bears Sleeping, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (2015) is just one of several livelier traverses of similar territory.

The wildfire is all that sparks here. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-930238-66-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Yosemite Conservancy

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Hee haw.

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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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A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.


From the Fly Guy series

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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