With octopus escape-artist abilities recently in the news, this is a timely title about a perennially appealing sea creature.

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OCTOPUS ESCAPES AGAIN!

Using a wide range of survival techniques, a common octopus escapes from her predators and finds her dinner.

This lightly fictionalized story demonstrates some of an octopus's unusual adaptations: a flexible, boneless body that can be squeezed into a small hiding place; a siphon that squirts ink to cloud the water or a jet of water for a fast getaway; the ability to leave a limb behind; and a knack for changing color and texture for camouflage. The lyrical text has appealing alliteration and repetition; it reads aloud smoothly. Occasionally, supplemental information appears in smaller type. The predator-prey concept provides sufficient suspense to carry readers and listeners along as Octopus avoids a sea turtle, eel, shark, grouper, and gull before she finds her meal. The information about her predators and her prey—shrimp, fish, snails, a crab, and clams—is accurate and nicely shows her place in the food chain. Angus’ collage-style illustrations have a watery look appropriate to her environment. The double-page spread that discusses camouflage is particularly effective, with the octopus visible only under a bright light. Like other books from this publisher, this includes extensive backmatter for both children and adults, and additional activities and information are available on the publisher's website.

With octopus escape-artist abilities recently in the news, this is a timely title about a perennially appealing sea creature. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58469-577-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dawn Publications

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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