An adept and impressive handling of a sensitive subject.

FOX

A CIRCLE OF LIFE STORY

The cycle of life in the natural world is explained using a fox as the subject.

In this thoughtful picture book, a red fox hunts and feeds her family of three cubs; as the cubs play-hunt, they grow into learning to hunt for real. Then the mother fox is hit and killed by a car. This aspect of the story is presented without anthropomorphic emotion: “Three cubs look around / sniff the ground, / hesitate… / then pad back home.” The story continues, focusing on the fox’s body and what is happening to it as it decomposes. Staying with unemotional science, the narrative tells how the decomposing body nourishes life, from the scavengers and microbes that feed on it to the nutrients it releases to the soil and air. In this way, readers come to understand that death and life are inextricably linked and that death is a catalyst for new life. The collage-style, full-color illustrations show the maturing cubs continuing to thrive, reassuring readers and reinforcing the circle-of-life theme. The illustrations vary presentations, alternating double-page spreads, spots, and full-page spreads. The images of the foxes are lively and delicate, while the forest world depicted creates an evocative setting. A thorough, scientific explanation of what happens to the physical body after death is presented at the book’s end. Members of a human family briefly illustrated have black hair and light beige skin.

An adept and impressive handling of a sensitive subject. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0692-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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Though told by two outsiders to the culture, this timely and well-crafted story will educate readers on the preciousness of...

THE WATER PRINCESS

An international story tackles a serious global issue with Reynolds’ characteristic visual whimsy.

Gie Gie—aka Princess Gie Gie—lives with her parents in Burkina Faso. In her kingdom under “the African sky, so wild and so close,” she can tame wild dogs with her song and make grass sway, but despite grand attempts, she can neither bring the water closer to home nor make it clean. French words such as “maintenant!” (now!) and “maman” (mother) and local color like the karite tree and shea nuts place the story in a French-speaking African country. Every morning, Gie Gie and her mother perch rings of cloth and large clay pots on their heads and walk miles to the nearest well to fetch murky, brown water. The story is inspired by model Georgie Badiel, who founded the Georgie Badiel Foundation to make clean water accessible to West Africans. The details in Reynolds’ expressive illustrations highlight the beauty of the West African landscape and of Princess Gie Gie, with her cornrowed and beaded hair, but will also help readers understand that everyone needs clean water—from the children of Burkina Faso to the children of Flint, Michigan.

Though told by two outsiders to the culture, this timely and well-crafted story will educate readers on the preciousness of potable water. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17258-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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