THE POLAR BEAR

In this companion to The Blue Whale (2015), Desmond introduces the polar bear’s habitat, physical characteristics, life cycle, and food sources.

The pithy text clearly explains such adaptations as the bear’s two layers of fur and extraordinary sense of hearing. Details about hunting for food, raising young, and the crucial role played by sea ice in the bear’s range are smoothly delivered. The digitally finished illustrations, combining paint, pencil, crayon, and printmaking techniques, are lovely when texturally evoking ice, sea, and fur. Threading throughout, though, are fanciful depictions of a black-haired, brown-skinned child—perhaps intended to appear Inuit. Wearing a red crown, fur-trimmed parka, striped tights, and boots, she plays in various scenes (often toting this very book). A spread likening the polar bear’s weight to that of 7-year-olds depicts 20 cavorting children. Most appear to be Inuit or at least First Nations, but the white child from The Blue Whale is shown, sharing that book. The penultimate spread shows the girl sleeping, entwined with a bear and cubs. The juxtaposition of fantasy and realism is confusing and undermines the book’s informative aspects, and no cultural context is provided for the Inuit depictions. Environmental threats to the polar bear’s habitat are relegated to a brief author’s note; there are no resources for further information.

An uneven effort. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59270-200-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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Informative, empowering, and fun.

ROX'S SECRET CODE

Girl power abounds in this book about coding that introduces young readers to the world of programming while offering them hands-on activities via a companion app.

In this title that was first introduced as a customizable, personalized print-on-demand product, Rox has a superpower. Using code, she programs toy robots that can do things like make broccoli disappear—or mischief. When Dad tells Rox to clean her room, she quickly thinks up a bot that will do it for her, writing code that instructs her bot to use artificial intelligence to sort objects by color and type. Though Rox knows that there’s a high potential for her creation to rebel, the perks outweigh any potential adverse effects. Rox’s robot has her room neat and tidy in no time—and then the entire home. Chorebot’s AI allows it to keep learning, and it seems Chorebot can do no wrong until the robot decides to rearrange the entire city (both buildings and people) by type, style, and gender. Chorebot goes “out of his artificial mind!” Rox must now stop her creation…without the assistance of the internet. The artwork, styled in the tradition of popular superhero series, is peppy and colorful, and it depicts Rox as an adorable black girl donning a black bomber jacket and a pink tutu. A companion app (not available for review) allows readers to create a bot of their own.

Informative, empowering, and fun. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-57687-899-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: POW!

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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