BEAUTIFUL JIM

THE WORLD'S SMARTEST HORSE

From the Animalographies series

An educated horse tells his own story.

Jim was meant to be a racehorse, but he is born awkward. Jim’s “human,” William “Doc” Key, is a Black man who was born into slavery and educated alongside the White children on the plantation. Jim relates how Doc loved to read about animal medicine and became so skilled at it that he was often called upon to treat animals on farms and even humans. When slavery ended, Doc prospered as a veterinarian. After Jim’s birth in 1889, Doc and his wife notice Jim’s remarkable intelligence, and Doc spends time teaching Jim the alphabet and numbers. Jim learns so many impressive skills that he and Doc take their show on the road and astonish audiences, including presidents and visitors to the 1904 world’s fair. Jim can spell, sort mail, use a telephone, and solve arithmetic problems. But the presentation is not just for show. Doc believes that the only skills needed to train animals are patience and kindness, and he hopes that seeing Jim’s intelligence will influence people to treat animals kindly. The text is written as a first-person narrative from the horse’s point of view, with occasional “diary” entries from particular locations and years. This style works well to draw readers into the story and to reinforce the idea that animals have feelings. The grainy, speckled texture of the illustrations gives them a slightly unfinished appearance, but the settings and characters are endearing and engaging.

A fascinating story. (notes) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8075-0611-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An amiable point-counterpoint for budding animal lovers/haters.

THE NOT BAD ANIMALS

Forty-two creatures of ill repute, from scorpions to hyenas, put on their best faces and protest that they’re just misunderstood.

In paired double-page spreads, Corrigan first presents for each animal the case for considering it scary or gross, then, with the page turn, allows it to contradict itself. “I’m creepy and I’m crawly,” a spider supposedly gloats. “I spin webs from my butt and leave them in places where I KNOW you’ll get stuck in them.” In the following spread, the spider points out that “Only half of my kind spin webs, and we really, REALLY don’t want you to get stuck in them!” Along with pointing to roles in the natural order and including many crowd-pleasing references to butts and poop, these counterarguments tend to run along the lines of the rat’s “I’m a fluffy little SWEETIE!” and the toad’s “I am a plump lump of CUTENESS!” Each testimonial is backed up by a box of background information baldly labeled “FACTS.” Readers may find the chorus of smiley faces and claims of adorability unconvincing, but they will at least come away with more nuanced impressions of each creepy-crawly. The humorous cartoon illustrations don’t measure up to the in-your-face photos of Seymour Simon’s classic Animals Nobody Loves (2001), but this gallery of beasties unfairly regarded as “icky and ewwy and downright gross” is considerably broader.

An amiable point-counterpoint for budding animal lovers/haters. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4748-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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