Sweet—really: Animal lovers will find much to appreciate here, and report writers are well served.

Maligned and malodorous…but oh, so interesting.

Skunks may not be everyone’s favorites, but they are fascinating. They live cozily in dark burrows deep underground. Kits, born while the weather is still cold, are fed and well protected by their mothers; as summer approaches, the youngsters emerge outside with “Mom” under cover of darkness and begin to forage independently. With fall’s arrival, they prepare for winter dormancy. As for those noxious aromas that make for skunks’ off-putting reputation? Before relying on their ultimate weapon, skunks actually give predators and other mischief-makers a variety of advance warnings. Readers may be surprised to learn that the unwelcome sprays of smelly musk are given off only when other warnings go unheeded; afterward, unfortunate would-be attackers have learned not to target this prey again. The smoothly written, gentle narrative explores the life of a family from birth in early spring to the kits’ independence in late fall. Unfamiliar vocabulary is italicized; definitions appear in a glossary. The endearing digital illustrations, embellished in aqua crayon, have the chalky appearance of oil pastels, which highlights the skunks’ furriness. The primarily dark backgrounds, softened with some bright touches, effectively cast the skunks’ black-and-white coats into sharp relief, the deep shades also reinforcing the striped creatures’ nocturnal existence.

Sweet—really: Animal lovers will find much to appreciate here, and report writers are well served. (author’s note, glossary, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62979-877-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019



A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023


From the Over and Under series

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature.

In a new entry in the Over and Under series, a paddleboarder glimpses humpback whales leaping, floats over a populous kelp forest, and explores life on a beach and in a tide pool.

In this tale inspired by Messner’s experiences in Monterey Bay in California, a young tan-skinned narrator, along with their light-skinned mom and tan-skinned dad, observes in quiet, lyrical language sights and sounds above and below the sea’s serene surface. Switching perspectives and angles of view and often leaving the family’s red paddleboards just tiny dots bobbing on distant swells, Neal’s broad seascapes depict in precise detail bat stars and anchovies, kelp bass, and sea otters going about their business amid rocky formations and the swaying fronds of kelp…and, further out, graceful moon jellies and—thrillingly—massive whales in open waters beneath gliding pelicans and other shorebirds. After returning to the beach at day’s end to search for shells and to spot anemones and decorator crabs, the child ends with nighttime dreams of stars in the sky meeting stars in the sea. Appended nature notes on kelp and 21 other types of sealife fill in details about patterns and relationships in this rich ecosystem. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-79720-347-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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