Narrative gaps and credibility issues hamper this tale of companionship between a young Canadian and a polar bear. When a mother bear whose cubs have been killed by hunters is spotted foraging in the town dump, Bruun’s father explains that she’ll be locked in “bear jail” until she’s hungry enough to make tracks back to the wild. Bruun not only slips food through the bars of her cage, but when she’s released, he follows her out onto the ice, where she teaches him how to live as a bear. Feeding on seals together, they stay out until spring, whereupon the protective bear leads Bruun back to town. Years later, they are reunited, and this time it’s Bruun who cares for the old bear, until she dies. Stafford models her unnamed locale on a Manitoba town that really does have a “bear jail,” but Davis (Baby Whales Drink Milk, 1994, etc.) is more concerned with capturing Arctic light falling on snowy landscapes and tidy, cleanly drawn figures than with filling in details left out of the spare narrative. Neither explains how the bear is captured, how Bruun, without visible supplies or even a knife, is supposed to eat the whole seal the polar bear brings him, or why after weeks of roughing it, his mittens and parka are still pristine. If the appended explanatory note, which is longer than the story itself, doesn’t leave readers cold, the lack of visual verisimilitude certainly will. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-26977-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look...


Winning actually isn’t everything, as jazz-happy Rooster learns when he goes up against the legendary likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald at the barnyard talent show.

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look good—particularly after his “ ‘Hen from Ipanema’ [makes] / the barnyard chickies swoon.”—but in the end the competition is just too stiff. No matter: A compliment from cool Mules and the conviction that he still has the world’s best band soon puts the strut back in his stride. Alexander’s versifying isn’t always in tune (“So, he went to see his cousin, / a pianist of great fame…”), and despite his moniker Rooster plays an electric bass in Bower’s canted country scenes. Children are unlikely to get most of the jokes liberally sprinkled through the text, of course, so the adults sharing it with them should be ready to consult the backmatter, which consists of closing notes on jazz’s instruments, history and best-known musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-688-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet