GONE AGAIN PTARMIGAN

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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