Unfortunate anthropomorphism in a beautiful setting.


A fanciful story of loss and return connects a series of remarkable photographs of sandhill cranes during their annual stopovers on the Platte River in Nebraska.

Forsberg’s stunning images show the cranes in action. Group shots give a sense of their incredible numbers and the power of their flight; close-ups include standard poses—fighting, dancing, preening—and even a remarkable picture of a mother enfolding her chick in her wings. There are beautiful Nebraskan sunsets and landscapes from both ends of the sandhill crane migration from Alaska to New Mexico. This is the first book for young readers by the Nebraska Book Award–winning conservation photographer. Thoughtful, attractive design and crisp, clear reproduction treat these first-rate images as they deserve. Not so for the narrative, which follows John Crane as he searches for his mate, Mary, after a coyote has startled the flock into confusion and separated the two. John’s imagined thoughts, conversations with other cranes and even prayers contradict the realism of the pictures. Cranes often mate for life, and they share other characteristics with human beings. But this is not a fable, and there is no need for this pair to be given human characteristics and motivations.

Unfortunate anthropomorphism in a beautiful setting. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9754964-1-1

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

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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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