CALVIN, LOOK OUT!

A BOOKWORM BIRDIE GETS GLASSES

A tad didactic, but Calvin does look cool.

A starling gets spectacular specs.

Something’s wrong at book-loving Calvin’s library: Words look blurry, and he trips over a chair. The librarian opines farsightedness, so Calvin researches it, then visits the optometrist. An eye test and a fitting later, Calvin proudly heads home sporting brand-new “spectacles, as he prefer[s] to call them.” Merciless teasing ensues from his scoffing flock, but Calvin doesn’t mind, recalling bespectacled luminaries he’s read about. Later, on a forest walk, he’s accidentally pinned under a huge rock. (His glasses don’t break.) Calvin remembers reading about how Archimedes once used mirrors to reflect sunlight and save lives. Applying this principle, Calvin reflects sunlight with his glasses and successfully sends a distress signal to which his flock responds. Afterward Calvin recounts his adventure and how his glasses effected his rescue. Surprise: All the birds want glasses, too, in order to be “cool like Calvin,” and now all migrate in their own spectacular spectacles, cool and happy. The book means well and aims to assure new young eyeglass wearers they’re smart and will be readily accepted into their own flocks. However, the story’s more obviously preachy than convincing. The specs-wearing greats Calvin remembers—Gandhi, Ben Franklin and John Lennon—will be way over preschoolers’ heads. The watercolor illustrations are quirky and lively; colored words set in larger capitals highlight dramatic story points.

A tad didactic, but Calvin does look cool. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4549-0910-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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