WILD BIRDS

Ryder (Mouse Tail Moon, 2002, etc.) follows a fledgling birder as she watches and cares for birds in the wild. Ambience rather than identification is her goal, so she endeavors to catch a little bit of each bird’s personality: starlings creeping about in the grass, finches fluttering as they take a bath, sparrows mobbing power lines like so many bleacher bums. An effort is made to convey some ornithological information in passing—what foods certain birds eat, which birds migrate south, which will stay for the winter—and Kwas’s (A Rumpus of Rhymes, 2001, etc.) color-shot art is particularly deliberate when it comes to the birds themselves, though more stylistic when it comes to the people and architecture. The staccato prose works well enough when speaking of the birds—“Ever-so-hungry birds watch your shadow slowly stretching on the ground. They see you fill the feeder with sweet seeds, then move away”—but the same cannot be said when it tries to catch the wonder of flight, when it gets all too whiffy and fails to hold: “They flicker here and there between leaf and leaf, between earth and sky. Wild birds take the high path over your head under the clouds.” Still, there is enough sustaining natural imagery here to launch more than a few young birders. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-027738-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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