The author of an adult book about uncommon animal attachments invites emergent readers to share the warm (Unlikely Friendships, 2011).
This is the first of four spinoffs, all rewritten and enhanced with fetching color photographs of the subject. It pairs a very young rhesus monkey with a dove, one cat with a zoo bear and another that became a “seeing-eye cat” for a blind dog (!), an old performing elephant with a stray dog and a lion in the Kenyan wild with a baby oryx. Refreshingly, the author, a science writer, refrains from offering facile analyses of the relationships’ causes or homiletic commentary. Instead, she explains how each companionship began, what is surprising about it and also how some ended, from natural causes or otherwise. There is a regrettable number of exclamation points, but they are in keeping with the overall enthusiastic tone.
The sense of wonder that infuses each simply worded chapter is contagious, and some of the photos are soooo cuuuuute.
(animal and word lists)
With this series entry, Roberts attempts to help readers understand that their peers in many parts of the world are suffering and becoming refugees because of “wars, natural disasters, and acts of terrorism.”
The book also speaks about migrants as people who “leave for a happier, healthier life, to join family members overseas, or because they don’t have enough money and need a job.” This effort aims to educate child readers, reassuring them that “most people have a safe and comfortable home to live in” and while “it can be upsetting to think about what life is like for refugees and migrants,” kids can do something to help. Some practical suggestions are provided and websites included for several aid organizations. Companion title Poverty and Hunger, by Louise Spilsbury and also illustrated by Kai, follows the same format, presenting a double-page spread with usually one to three short paragraphs on a topic. A yellow catlike animal with a black-and-white striped tail is found in every picture in both books and seems an odd unifying feature. Mixed-media illustrations in muted colors feature stylized children and adults against handsomely textured areas; they exude an empty sense of unreality in spite of racial diversity and varied landscapes. By trying too hard to make comparisons accessible, Roberts ends up trivializing some concepts. Speaking about camping and refugee camps in the same sentence is very misleading.
While this book and its companion appear to be meant for the lower elementary grades, these British imports will require too much adult intervention to be very useful.
(bibliography, websites, glossary, index)
(Informational picture book. 7-9)
Creatively stylized images of flora and fauna native to some 15 deserts around the world.
Interspersing her examination with closer looks at camels and at sand dunes, the bird communities associated with acacia trees, and like intriguing sidelights, Tzomaka poses groups of select residents from all three types of desert (hot, cold, and coastal) against sere backdrops, with pithily informative comments on characteristic behaviors and survival strategies. But significant bits of her presentation are only semilegible, with black type placed on deep blue or purple backgrounds. And rarely (if ever) have desert animals looked so…floral. Along with opting for a palette of bright pinks, greens, and purples rather than natural hues for her flat, screen-print–style figures, Tzomaka decorates them with contrasting whirls of petals and twining flourishes, stars, scallops, pinwheels, and geometric lines or tessellations. Striking though these fancies are, artistic license has led her into some serious overgeneralizations, as she claims to be drawing on regional folk motifs for inspiration—justifying the ornate ruffs and borders on creatures of the Kalahari with a vague note that “African tribes make accessories and jewelry…decorated with repeated lines, circles and dots,” for instance, and identifying a Northwest Coastal pattern on an arctic fox as “Inuit.” Readers may find less shifty footing in more conventional outings like Jim Arnosky’s Watching Desert Wildlife (1998).
A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity.
(Informational picture book. 7-9)