A lovely collection for those who wish to emphasize the Christian nature of the holiday, worth savoring slowly during the...

MANGER

The eminent anthologist of children’s poetry has gathered together 15 poems from many sources, all centered around the theme of animals that might have been present on the night of the birth of Jesus.

An introductory poem by Hopkins sets the scene, with a striking illustration on the facing page depicting the animals looking up at a comet streaking through the night sky. Next is the rooster (also shown on the eye-catching cover illustration) who announces the birth to the world. Other animals include typical barnyard residents such as the sheep, horse, cow and goat, as well as less-expected creatures, like fish and a llama. Poets represented include X.J. Kennedy, Jane Yolen, Prince Redcloud and Alma Flor Ada. The final poem is a verse from the traditional carol “The Friendly Beasts,” describing “the donkey, / shaggy and brown” that carried Mary “safely / to Bethlehem town.” Intriguing collage illustrations using watercolor and mixed-media elements provide an elegant accompaniment to the short, quiet poems. Unusual perspectives show a cat from behind, a cow arching her neck and an owl in midflight seemingly ready to swoop off the page. All the animals gather around the manger in the final illustration, with the comet again shooting across the sky. The baby is in the manger but just barely showing, and Mary reaches out to pet the head of the shaggy, brown donkey to reward him for his faithful service.

A lovely collection for those who wish to emphasize the Christian nature of the holiday, worth savoring slowly during the Christmas season. (Poetry/religion. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5419-3

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Silly reads for new readers to dig into.

THERE'S A PEST IN THE GARDEN!

From the Giggle Gang series

A turnip-loving duck and its friends defend their garden.

Alas, the duck, sheep, dog, and donkey immediately discover the eponymous pest in the garden when it (a groundhog?) eats a row of beans. The duck is frantic that turnips are next, but instead the pest eats the sheep’s favorite crop: corn. Peas occupy the next row, and the pest gobbles them up, too. Instead of despairing, however, the donkey cries, “Yippee! He ate ALL THE PEAS!” and catching the others’ puzzled looks, continues, “I don’t like peas.” After this humorous twist, the only uneaten row is sown with turnips, and the duck leaps to devour them before the pest can do so. In a satisfying, funny conclusion, the duck beams when the dog, sheep, and donkey resolve to plant a new garden and protect it with a fence, only to find out that it will exclude not just the groundhog, but the duck, too. A companion release, What Is Chasing Duck?, has the same brand of humor and boldly outlined figures rendered in a bright palette, but its storyline doesn’t come together as well since it’s unclear why the duck is scared and why the squirrel that was chasing it doesn’t recognize the others when they turn and chase him at book’s end.

Silly reads for new readers to dig into. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-94165-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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