A solid if not stellar addition to a growing picture-book genre.

In this true story, the African elephant Maggie languishes in an Alaskan zoo until she is transported to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s facility in California.

The first sentence says, “Once, elephants lived in Alaska—two of them.” The text quickly makes it clear that, despite the book’s title, elephants are not indigenous to Alaska, and the two elephants lived in a zoo. Maggie was a baby when she was transported there to be a companion to an older, Asian elephant named Annabelle. According to the text, the cold climate did not hurt the animals, but Annabelle’s death left Maggie bereft. She took to carrying around a tire as her friend. The paragraph devoted to Maggie’s activities with the tire is entertaining until its concluding sentence, which describes how zookeepers daily find “lonely Maggie and her tire, waiting.” Readers learn of the many efforts made by zookeepers to help the pining pachyderm, with the eventual solution being a complicated move to PAWS, where “Maggie is never alone” and evidently “happy.” The text is clear and concise, intersplicing general facts about elephants, behavioral conditioning, and PAWS with Maggie’s story. Further information is offered at the tale’s end, including a Q-and-A with Maggie’s keeper at PAWS that appropriately complicates the elephant’s “happiness.” The art is accurate but not particularly compelling, with a stiff, retro quality. Registered-trademark symbols in the large-print text are an unwelcome intrusion—do readers really need to know what kinds of candy Maggie ate?

A solid if not stellar addition to a growing picture-book genre. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60718-450-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Arbordale Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018


A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023


From the Over and Under series

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature.

In a new entry in the Over and Under series, a paddleboarder glimpses humpback whales leaping, floats over a populous kelp forest, and explores life on a beach and in a tide pool.

In this tale inspired by Messner’s experiences in Monterey Bay in California, a young tan-skinned narrator, along with their light-skinned mom and tan-skinned dad, observes in quiet, lyrical language sights and sounds above and below the sea’s serene surface. Switching perspectives and angles of view and often leaving the family’s red paddleboards just tiny dots bobbing on distant swells, Neal’s broad seascapes depict in precise detail bat stars and anchovies, kelp bass, and sea otters going about their business amid rocky formations and the swaying fronds of kelp…and, further out, graceful moon jellies and—thrillingly—massive whales in open waters beneath gliding pelicans and other shorebirds. After returning to the beach at day’s end to search for shells and to spot anemones and decorator crabs, the child ends with nighttime dreams of stars in the sky meeting stars in the sea. Appended nature notes on kelp and 21 other types of sealife fill in details about patterns and relationships in this rich ecosystem. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-79720-347-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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