A notable choice for both STEM curricula and family sharing.



This introduction to Darwin focuses on his five-year exploratory journey on the HMS Beagle.

Young Charles loves searching for insects, birds, rocks, and bones, and he also loves sorting his treasures. After finishing school at Cambridge, he’s recommended by his botany professor as naturalist for the Beagle’s mapmaking mission around South America. Collecting specimens and recording “big observations about the tiniest of creatures” in his journal, Charles often remains behind to explore while the Beagle sails the coastline. The forthright narrative highlights Charles’ coming-of-age as a young man and scientist. In Tierra del Fuego, he observes the food chain: “The bigger animals couldn’t survive without eating the smaller ones. Charles saw how their lives were all connected.” Exploring the Andes, Charles’ speculations about the effects of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis are proven when he finds seashells embedded in high-elevation rocks. Thermes’ pencil-and-watercolor maps and illustrations are charming, accessible, and idealized. Charles resembles a boy throughout, save for his long sideburns. Some spreads group many species together in tableaux designed for browsing rather than scientific exactitude. The famous Galápagos Islands stopover gets special attention, and a cross section of the departing Beagle shows tortoises—for eating—in the hold. Endpapers map the global journey and include a timeline, some of which is hidden behind the front flap.

A notable choice for both STEM curricula and family sharing. (notes, sources, further reading, “fun facts”) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2120-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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