An interesting exploration of animal intelligence for budding zoologists, so long as they take the anthropomorphization with...

ORANGUTAN HOUDINI

Orangutan Fu Manchu makes a monkey out of his zookeepers.

Twelve-year-old orangutan Fu Manchu lives with his family group in a zoo enclosure. After obtaining a length of wire, he figures out how to pick the lock on the door. He lets his family out, and they climb the trees above the elephant corral to enjoy the sun and the leaves. Their afternoon siesta doesn’t last long. Jerry, the head zookeeper, blames his staff for leaving the door unlocked and then returns Fu and his family to the enclosure. The next nice day, they escape again. Jerry and his staff double-check the locks, but Fu has his secret piece of wire. He can escape whenever he wants to, and he does. Jerry continues to blame his staff until they band together and catch Fu using something to pick the lock. But what is it? They can’t find anything he might have used in his pen…until Jerry spies a glint of metal in Fu’s mouth. Neme’s debut for children is based on a true story and a real ape, though she says in an author’s note that some details are speculation—not the least of which are Fu’s thoughts and motivations. Kelleher’s watercolors are realistic enough with a few cartoon touches: A panicked chipmunk and pigeon observe Fu’s initial escape.

An interesting exploration of animal intelligence for budding zoologists, so long as they take the anthropomorphization with a grain of salt. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59373-153-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bunker Hill

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 29, 2018

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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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