I AM ELEPHANT

Abundant, stylized watercolor drawings of elephants are accompanied by a sparse text in which an elephant narrator presents scattered information about both African and Asian elephants.

The book itself is well crafted, with an appealing layout on sturdy, high-quality, glossy white paper. The large, sans-serif print stands out expertly, and the complementary art is reproduced in colorful, detailed glory. This attention to production and the limited number of poetically arranged words—none of which are scientific—make the book appear to be a young child’s introduction to a representative of a magnificent, endangered species. Indeed, most of its initial text and art support this idea. For example: “Someday, I will be like my mother and grandmother—slow-motion majesty.” Nice, too, to learn the Greek derivation of elephant and to have passages citing positive references to the animals from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. However, the penultimate and final double-page spreads take a deeper, darker turn in both text and art. Instead of a sweet ending to lull children into bedtime, it is the stuff of nightmares. There are other, better books that will encourage children’s interest in elephant conservation, including Elephants Walk Together, by Cheryl Lawton Malone and illustrated by Bistra Masseva (2017), and Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants, by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck (2017), for the youngest, and The Elephant, by Jenni Desmond (2018), for slightly older readers.

Lyrical and disturbing. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-56846-378-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL

From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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