As the subtitle indicates, this is a compendium of familiar and not-so-familiar sayings that have to do with animals, from “we’re off like a herd of turtles” to “the tail end.” The design is purposely busy, packing all 440 sayings into 48 meager pages by allowing them to spill onto the title page, index, and colophon, although most are confined to the body of the book and organized thematically, from “Around the House” to “Under the Waves.” The sayings are illustrated by bright vignettes that differ in style to provide both variety and to suit the saying, and frequently interact. So, “as crazy as a cuckoo” is illustrated by a wacky-looking bird popping out of a classically Swiss clock; this contrasts with “Watch it like a hawk,” which features a proud raptor with gaze fixed, X-ray vision–like, on a “nest egg” filled with C-notes. Each saying is glossed—“Don’t cast your pearls before swine” becomes “Don’t waste something good on people who can’t appreciate it”—and these paraphrases very rarely rely themselves on idiomatic expressions, making them clear and easy to understand. An authors’ note at the beginning explains the different types of sayings, from simile and metaphor to idiom and proverb. The serious philologist might wish for origins to the expressions contained herein, but there’s only so much this perky little volume can do; as it is, it will provide substantial browsing pleasure to both animal lovers and children curious about language. The cat’s pajamas! (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-8234-1774-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...


With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Diarist Keena Ford is ambivalent about second grade: Girls and boys are placed in separate classes, so she will not be with her best friend, Eric. But she resolves to do her best and when Ms. Coleman turns up on the first day of school in a “COOL BELT WITH SPARKLES,” she decides things are looking up. When she mixes up her dates and leads her teacher to believe that the next day is her birthday, greed for chocolate cake overcomes honesty, plunging her into ever-deeper hot water. Morrison’s amiable illustrations clearly depict Keena as a lively African-American girl, but there is little in the text to lend her any ethnic or cultural specificity. The result is that she seems to be just another sassy, impulsive chapter-book heroine à la Clementine or Moxy Maxwell. Still, her escapades and the way she handles them ring with an emotional honesty readers will recognize: If she continues to develop, she has the potential to become a genuine character in her own right. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3263-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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