Standard issue browsing fodder, likely to sink quickly out of sight through overall mediocrity.


From the Animal Bests series

Quick takes on selected denizens of the deep (and not so deep), illustrated with a mix of nature photos and brightly colored painted portraits.

Catering not so much to younger independent readers as to those with short attention spans, a smattering of double-page spreads introduces creatures from the octopus (“Undersea Brainboxes” with the ability to get into, and even out of, screw-top jars) to the Mekong giant catfish (“big as a tiger”) while focusing on particular animal talents—such as camouflage, special senses, or tool using. Aside from the low page count, nothing about this book or its companions stands out. Portolano’s images are unexceptional, but they at least fill gaps in the stingy assortment of stock photos, and along with chatty general commentary, Farndon occasionally dishes up some uncommon tidbits, such as the way sharks will display “tonic immobility” (i.e., play dead) or the pearlfish’s habit of taking up residence in a sea cucumber’s anus. Series companions Amazing Land Animals, Incredible Bugs, and Remarkable Birds take the same browser-friendly approach. And for the most part, the content in all is anchored, however tenuously, in fact.

Standard issue browsing fodder, likely to sink quickly out of sight through overall mediocrity. (Nonfiction. 8-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0625-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Hungry Tomato/Lerner

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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From McDonald (Tundra Mouse, 1997, etc.), a haunting, dramatic glimpse of the Bone Keeper, a trickster with special transformational powers. Some say Bone Woman is a ghost; some envision her with three heads that view past, present, and future simultaneously. Most, however, call her the “Skeleton Maker” or “Keeper of Bones.” Chanting, shaking, moaning, and wailing, the Bone Keeper is frenzied as she sorts bones; not until the end of the book are readers told, in murmuring lines of free verse, what the Bone Keeper is creating in her mysterious desert cave. Out of the darkness, a wolf springs to life, leaps from the cave, howling, a symbol of resurrection and proof of life’s cyclical nature. Also keeping readers guessing as to the Bone Keeper’s final creation are Karas’s paintings; they, too, require that the final piece of the puzzle be placed before all are understood. The coloring and textures embody the desert setting in the evening, showing the fearsome cave and sandy shadows that wait to release the mystery of the bones. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7894-2559-9

Page Count: 30

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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The tables are turned and the big bad wolf from traditional fairy tales is cast as a mild-mannered, aspiring cook in this hilarious topsy-turvy tale from Fearnley. Determined to assuage his yearning for pancakes, the gastronomically-challenged Mr. Wolf sets out to make a stack himself. However, the would-be chef discovers a staggering amount of hurdles that must be overcome before he can enjoy his repast: reading the recipe, making a list, purchasing the ingredients. Like the little red hen, Mr. Wolf requests help from his neighbors along the way, and these characters—Chicken Little, Wee Willy Winkle, Gingerbread Man, and others—have shed their more benign personalities to reveal themselves as a rude, scurrilous bunch. Mr. Wolf retains his poise with each rebuff and ends up doing the work alone; when the pushy neighbors barge into his kitchen to share the food, Mr. Wolf enjoys—in true fairy-tale fashion—far more than pancakes for his meal. Fearnley’s light tone keeps the abrupt demise of the ill-mannered bunch from being morbid, and the switch in Mr. Wolf’s demeanor, from polite to hungry, is more funny than frightful. The brightly hued illustrations conjure up an imaginary land that tickles the funnybone, where “Little Jack’s Plum Pies” can be purchased from “Simple Simon’s Pie & Cake Emporium.” Wryly funny and childlike. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-888444-76-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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