Reluctant young scientists are sure to enjoy this fanciful introduction to pond life.



Craig (Try, Try, Try, 2016, etc.) offers a beginner’s science book, illustrated by Tan (Listening with My Heart, 2017, etc.), which tells of peculiar characters studying Earth’s life-forms.

The otherworldly titular scientists are brightly colored creatures, vaguely round or pear-shaped, with a variety of eye quantities and forms (including eye-stalks) and even antennae. Tan delightfully and humorously depicts them in an opening spread showing the book’s pond setting. When the text begins, it’s in two sections: a beautifully designed, rhyming text box offers accessible scientific information, and separate dialogue between the scientists tells of their mission to “save Taddy Tadpole.” They’re there to observe Taddy and its siblings and to make sure that Taddy survives to adulthood. A few sections, such as one that focuses on the tadpoles’ predators, may make young readers concerned for both the amphibians and scientists, and the frog-growth timeline is quite condensed. Still, Craig packs a lot of information into a small amount of text. Tan’s illustrations mix realism with anthropomorphism; all the pond residents are accurately labeled, with the exception of an axolotl labeled as a salamander. Endnotes offer more in-depth scientific discussion.

Reluctant young scientists are sure to enjoy this fanciful introduction to pond life.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9967212-5-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlbop Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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