COOL CAT, SCHOOL CAT

Gus and his family have just moved to a new apartment, but Gus is not making the most of his new start. His mother hints that his lack of focus, scatterbrained behavior, and general attention problems are nothing new. Even on the way to school on the very first day, a howling animal distracts Gus. The animal turns out to be a cat and Gus slips a string around its neck and tries to catch it. The cat escapes, Gus is scratched and bleeding, and he is late for school. This story, though good-hearted, lacks a sense of time and place. Except for the teacher’s cursive writing on the board, readers have no idea of Gus’s age or grade. Many of the situations seem unrealistic. Would a young boy with two parents really walk to a new school in a new neighborhood all alone on the first day? Would a child approach a wild animal and be able to slip a string around its neck? Would a new student be able to find an empty office and keep a cat there for weeks, undetected, without a litter box? Unlikely situations, awkward writing (including strange similes and confusing shifts from third person to first person narration), and an undefined setting add up to an unsatisfying back-to-school story. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-8234-1714-X

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

Categories:

1001 BEES

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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