Entertaining and even educational.

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THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK

A metafictive look at animal classification.

Segal-Walters' narrator “thinks she’s in charge” of her presentation of characteristics of different animals and animal groups, but she is one-upped by illustrator Biggs, who uses ink, crayon, and digital color to add Post-it notes and comments. His illustrations are quirky and funny. Introducing her subject, the narrator says, “If the cat laid an egg… / it would be a hen.” The surprise on the egg-laying cat’s face is mirrored by the expressions of the hen he adds. He has his own opinions about what should be pictured and how. When the narrator says that a frog that made honey would be a bee, he plays with images of a “bee-frog,” or “brog.” His snake is not a garter snake with a simple stripe but wildly colorful—and still sporting bees’ wings. He doesn’t want to draw a blobfish at all, producing instead an unforgettable photograph. Such silliness will probably appeal to young readers and listeners tired of more-traditional narratives, and the parade of animals (cat, hen, frog, bee, snake, shark, sunfish, gerenuk, and the aforementioned blobfish) will surprise. Both text and backmatter convey some essential traits of mammals, birds, amphibians, insects, reptiles, and fish. But even in the backmatter the illustrator has the last word, telling readers that fish “like to ride bikes after school.”

Entertaining and even educational. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3922-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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For readers who haven’t a musk ox of their own to snuggle up with, this tale proves just as cozy.

COZY

An agreeable Alaskan musk ox embodies that old Ben Franklin adage, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

When Cozy the ox is separated from his herd in the midst of a winter storm, he decides to wait it out. His massive size and warmth attract small animals—a lemming family and a snowshoe hare—desperate to escape the cold. However, as bigger, predatory creatures arrive, Cozy must lay down some “house rules” that grow with each new creature that arrives until they extend to: “Quiet voices, gentle thumping, claws to yourself, no biting, no pouncing, and be mindful of others!” Over time, the guests grow antsy, but at last spring arrives and Cozy can find his family. The tale is not dissimilar to another Jan Brett tale of cold weather and animals squeezing into a small space (The Mitten, 1989). Meticulous watercolors refrain from anthropomorphizing, rendering everyone, from massive Cozy to the tiniest of lemmings, in exquisite detail. This moving tale of gentle kindness serves as a clarion call for anyone searching for a book about creating your own community in times of trial. Brett even includes little details about real musk oxen in the text (such as their tendency to form protective circles to surround their vulnerable young), but readers hoping for further information in any backmatter will be disappointed. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 37.3% of actual size.)

For readers who haven’t a musk ox of their own to snuggle up with, this tale proves just as cozy. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10979-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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