A subtle cry for environmental activism in an enticing package.



In poetic prose, a polar bear reveals her dependency on the cycle of Arctic seasons.

The artwork is strikingly beautiful, with a palette that gives equal glory to such natural wonders as starry night skies, ocean depths, and the aurora borealis. The author/illustrator’s background in scientific illustration serves the book well; the bear staring directly at readers early on has glistening eyes and a nose that surely will smudge the opposite page. Renderings of Arctic habitats and their denizens are equally impressive. The text also excels. Complementing its enchanting rhythm, the text includes some enjoyable alliteration (“a weary raft of wary walruses”). The bear begins her story by telling readers that polar bears are patient animals and that she has learned patience from her mother. This sliver of anthropomorphism cleverly engages readers with this particular bear while giving a basic, scientific account of one year in a female polar bear’s life. The facts are fascinating. Polar bears apparently spend their lives alternately: gorging on seals and ambling on sea ice, then paddling toward terra firma during the annual ice melt, and then nearly starving while on land. The females move further inland to birth their cubs, and the cycle resumes as the ice rebuilds. “I will teach the sea’s rhythm to my cubs and whisper to them in the dark.”

A subtle cry for environmental activism in an enticing package. (endnotes) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-279128-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Hee haw.

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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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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...


From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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