WILD IS THE WIND

Starting in southern Africa, where a girl named Cassi releases a healed swift into its flock, this picture book tells parallel tales of Beijing swifts’ migratory habits and the ongoing, ancient powers of the wind.

The spectacular artwork alone will draw in children too young to read the sparse, lyrical, yet informative text. Vibrant colors highlight dramatic, sometimes surreal landscapes, seascapes, and skyscapes. The first sentence is graceful and comforting: “Cassi cradles the swift in the palm of her hand.” The slender, brown-skinned girl stands atop a pile of rocks, gazing down at her tiny charge, which she’s nursed back to health. Animals, plants, and traditional Namibian (probably) homes are in the foreground and distant background, as are soaring swifts. Surprisingly, a hot air balloon hovers behind Cassi. After affirming the importance of the swift’s release back into the wild, the text highlights the seasonal changes preceding the flock’s departure. Meanwhile, complementary artwork depicts Cassi’s hot air balloon accompanying the earliest leg (ahem, wing) of the journey. After establishing the wind as the swifts’ home, the next pages concentrate on how the amazing power of the wind has shaped the many landscapes over which the birds fly for three straight months. Their nesting destination—pinpointed by a hazy Beijing skyline—includes an elated boy who welcomes the swifts as summer’s harbinger; the following double-page spread depicts a new generation of birds hatching in China, already awaiting the return trip to Africa.

Full-circle ecstasy. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1792-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

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. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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