Rhymes without reason and no reason for the rhymes. Strictly for browsers and skimmers.


When you’re the president’s pet, who walks you, empties your litter box or scrapes off your perch?

Readers who hunger for information about the nonhumans who’ve lived at the White House over the years won’t learn the answer to those questions, but they will discover that all our chief executives but one, from Washington to Obama, have owned a variety of pets—and, in some cases, been owned by them. In addition to the familiar dogs, cats and birds, some unusual First Animals have included goats, mice, bears, zebras, hyenas, lions, snakes, rats and tigers. Another question that goes unanswered in this book is why the information about presidential pets is conveyed through verse—verse that’s not very good and frequently scans poorly at that; how appropriate that the word doggerel already exists, or it would have had to be coined just for this occasion. Brief details about each president’s life and term, a “Tell Me More!” feature with tidbits of trivia, and highlights of each president’s term in office supplement the pet facts. The two-page spreads include lively, humorous caricatures. The simplistic trivia items are generally interesting and amusing, but there are no sources to verify some of the statements.

Rhymes without reason and no reason for the rhymes. Strictly for browsers and skimmers. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-936140-79-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Imagine Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

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 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Pretty but insubstantial.


Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet