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HIPPOS CAN'T SWIM

AND OTHER FUN FACTS

From the Did You Know? series

The pictures are a weak link, but younger readers and listeners will happily take this quick dive into the sea of random...

Smooth segues provide the cement for this high-wattage, if less-than-carefully illustrated, set of animal facts.

Oswald’s cartoon images of popeyed, well-caffeinated creatures crank up the visual energy to frantic levels. Unfortunately, at the outset, they contradict the author’s correct observation that hippos’ noses are placed on the tops of their heads. In another misstep, both illustration and a thought balloon misleadingly suggest that bats can recognize a passing 747 with echolocation (their range is much, much smaller). For the most part, though, DiSiena and Eliot’s revelations are both accurate and just as detailed as they need to be to keep and hold attention. They glide from the hippo’s titular lack of buoyancy (they walk along river bottoms) to the surprising fleetness of sea turtles. From there, it’s on to jellyfish, which don’t actively swim but do flash with bioluminescence—just like fireflies. So it goes, until the parade of facts circles neatly back around to blue whales (“actually the largest animals that have ever lived”) and a closing assurance that “unlike hippos…blue whales sure can SWIM!” Though the authors supply no supportive references or leads to further information, they do tuck in an additional “Fun Fact” about each of the 14 animals at the end. A companion, Chickens Don’t Fly and Other Fun Facts, publishes simultaneously.

The pictures are a weak link, but younger readers and listeners will happily take this quick dive into the sea of random knowledge. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9352-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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FLY GUY PRESENTS: SHARKS

From the Fly Guy series

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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