A fanciful approach to raising children’s consciousness about conservation.

Rhyming text introduces the titular conundrum with the opening line, “There’s a Rang-tan in my bedroom,” delivered by a child with brown skin and straight, dark hair. Accompanying colorful art shows an orangutan wreaking havoc in the child’s home—throwing away chocolate, howling at shampoo—until the child finally asks why the animal is there. The following pages, set in a forest, switch perspective, with the orangutan’s narration: “There’s a human in my forest, and I don’t know what to do.” The text goes on to explain that the human presence in the rainforest is linked to clear-cutting in order to grow palm trees for palm oil used in products like chocolate and shampoo. (These facts are also detailed in both a foreword by actor and conservationist Emma Thompson and the backmatter, which specifies Indonesia as the place where orangutans live in the wild.) Now the child knows what to do: organize! Moved by the orangutan’s plight, the child writes letters to corporations asking them to curb deforestation, and backmatter provides readers with practical, accessible steps to do the same. Preston-Gannon’s illustrations feature characters both human and animal with big, round eyes and soft outlines; the scenes of bulldozers laying waste to the forest are unsurprisingly upsetting. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at 18.4% of actual size.)

A good, green read. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62371-873-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Crocodile/Interlink

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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


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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