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TALK, OSCAR, PLEASE!

Oscar is a friendly pup who can make lots of noises: yips and howls, barks and growls, whimpers and wheezes. Unfortunately, though, he can’t talk. But what if he could? In this jovial, straightforward story in verse, a boy asks his dog to learn how to speak (“It sure would be great if you’d talk, Oscar—please?”) and imagines how much better life would be as a result. The bright, rounded illustrations show Oscar in his potential roles as student, coach, hiker, playground partner, telephone user and game-show contestant, while the text fills in comic details about the fun the two could have together, rhyming all the way. Bowers clearly has a good time with these scenarios. Oscar sits on a stack of books at a desk, earnestly studying his ABCs; Oscar gestures confidently with a pointer at a poster about fleas at the vet’s office. While the boy realizes his dream is unlikely, he isn’t really bothered. Oscar is his best friend, after all, so even though others may not understand, he feels he knows what Oscar is saying. An enjoyable selection, this will doubtlessly appeal to any child with a passion for dogs. Though the rhymes are at times a little forced, the message of a boy’s love for and kinship with his dog speaks for itself. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4027-6563-6

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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