THE UGLY FIVE

This tale of celebrating inner beauty should appeal to Donaldson and Scheffler’s fans as well as to animal lovers.

Fan favorites Donaldson and Scheffler (Zog and the Flying Doctors, 2017, etc.) return with a rhyming introduction to the so-called ugliest animals on the African savanna.

The story begins with the “Big Five” (elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard) and friends lounging about being “glorious,” “cool,” “fine,” “divine,” “graceful,” and “great.” When a wildebeest enters the scene, the other animals don’t label her, but she proclaims herself “the ugly one” (though the description of her physical appearance doesn’t entirely match the illustration). The wildebeest doesn’t seem bothered to be ugly and soon meets the hyena, who she thinks is even uglier than she, and the hyena concurs. The wildebeest invites the hyena to “Join the club,” and a pattern emerges. As they walk through the savanna, they’re joined by a vulture, a warthog, and a marabou stork. Each time a new animal joins the bunch, they modify their silly song about how ugly they are. Readers are sure to enjoy singing along to this, though making the rest of the text rhyme is sometimes a stretch. At the end, their children proclaim them to be good parents and the loveliest of animals. Scheffler’s signature illustrations add humor to the story and bring the setting to life.

This tale of celebrating inner beauty should appeal to Donaldson and Scheffler’s fans as well as to animal lovers. (author’s note, picture glossary) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-24953-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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