THE SNOW BEAR

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

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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