As in other books by the author, big issues are presented in an accessible manner and subtly enough that adults can guide...

NANUK THE ICE BEAR

The story of a female polar bear provides an overview of the species’ life cycle and includes the mention of environmental changes that threaten their existence.

Clear, soft illustrations in Winter’s characteristic style accompany her straightforward text. She starts with several pages that describe the Arctic landscape, offering a sense of place and placement. Similarly simple sentences cover feeding, mating (“a dance of courtship”), and the raising of cubs. A touch of sentiment appears in the forlorn expression on Nanuk’s face when her young are old enough to strike out on their own, but overall both narrative and pictures focus on conveying an accurate picture of typical experiences and behaviors. Illustrations are centered on each page, bordered in white, while behind them a rising sea changes color and height in successive spreads, eventually engulfing the white space entirely. In the final pages the author mentions the changes that have been implied throughout by this changing background. Although she softens the grim prospect by ending with the positive future envisioned in Nanuk’s dreams, the reality, however lightly limned, ultimately gives the story a melancholy tone.

As in other books by the author, big issues are presented in an accessible manner and subtly enough that adults can guide children to an age-appropriate understanding of them. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4667-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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. 28, 2018

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

FLY GUY PRESENTS: SHARKS

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. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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