This well-intentioned effort falls short.

BEA'S BEES

When Beatrix notices that bees have left their hollow-tree nest in her local park, she needs the town’s help to bring them back.

Bea walks to school through the park, where she discovers a nest of active bumblebees in a hollow oak tree. She is fascinated with the tiny creatures, and she visits the tree every day. But one day, the nest is silent; the bees are gone. She asks her teacher about it, but he doesn’t know why bees disappear. She notices the flowers around the oak tree have been cut down. She asks the school librarian, who helps her find books about bees. She learns all about bees—what they eat, how they pollinate, and what kinds of foods would stop growing without them—and that information is shared with readers. Bea makes a plan. In early spring, she plants wildflowers around the tree. She does her science report on bees, and she hands out seeds at school. Seedlings sprout all over town, and finally the bees return. The illustrations, which depict Bea as black, are colorful but largely redundant of the text. An endnote in small font and scientific language is appropriate for older readers, and the final page of labeled wildflowers is a lovely and useful finish. The story is paced well, and Bea is likable enough, but the book’s design lacks professional polish.

This well-intentioned effort falls short. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7643-5699-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Schiffer

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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GRUMPY MONKEY FRESHLY SQUEEZED

From the Grumpy Monkey series

Grumpy Monkey moves from picture books to a graphic-novel chapter book, in which he tolerates his friends’ goofy antics during a group journey to an orange grove.

Divided into three chapters of cartoon-style comics, with bonus interludes in between, the book features Jim Panzee, the protagonist of the Grumpy Monkey picture-book series. He is on his relaxing Wednesday Walk, stress orange in hand, but little is quiet about his journey once his jungle friends appear. After the accumulation of unwanted companions causes Jim to squeeze his stress orange so hard that he destroys it, the group seeks a replacement, stopping for a papaya fight, a splash party in the water, and some swinging from vines. They eventually escape angry parrots with the only orange the parrots didn’t devour. There’s a good dose of potty humor: Leslie the giraffe responds to Norman the gorilla’s invitation to come along with “you bet your butt I do,” and two spreads are devoted to poop humor (with Jim as the butt of the joke). There’s also wordplay (a chapter called “Orange Ya Glad We Made It?”; Jim’s repeated mantra, “Squeeze, squeeze, mind at ease”; and a guide to speaking Jim’s nonsense language, in which the syllable ob is inserted before vowels in every word). That the book pauses for a “Primate Primer” with talking simians will be like pouring lemon juice on a cut for those readers who see in anthropomorphized monkeys a perpetuation of pernicious anti-Black stereotypes.

Disappointing. (Graphic fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30601-7

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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