Spectacular paintings show the Ptarmigan, or Arctic grouse, through the seasons as he struggles to survive both the harsh climate and a host of predators. The tale begins with white and silvery scenes of the Arctic winter, with the snowshoe hare, lemming, and pure white Ptarmigan evading a lynx, snowy owl, weasel, and wolverine. In summer the Ptarmigan, wearing the dappled brown feathers that help the adult birds and chicks blend into the thick brush, faces still more predators. The artist provides double-paged layouts, using acrylic paints on Masonite board to capture the drama of the land and inhabitants, changing his palette for each season and animal. The snowy owl is white and silver against a silver-gray sky and pale, lemon moon. The red fox shimmers “flame colored in the low sun,” as he leaps amid the gold September leaves and slender, white tree trunks. In winter the ptarmigan huddles in the snow, blue and white against the iridescent northern lights. The Alaskan artist often includes thumbnail sketches inside the paintings to show details, a clutch of eggs, the feathered foot of the ptarmigan, a newly hatched chick. The lyrical text, with its recurring refrain, “Gone again ptarmigan,” conveys the author’s admiration for the hardy bird and builds excitement on each page. He concludes with additional facts. A solid nature title, with paintings that are a visual delight and a text that reads like poetry. (Nonfiction. 5-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7922-7561-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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Hee haw.

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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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The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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