Striking illustrations, done from an insect’s perspective, are the background for this conversational description of a ladybug’s life.

Almost photographic in their detail, hyper-realistic close-up illustrations, created in blurred watercolor layers, accompany an informal introduction to the seven-spotted ladybug, the most common form in Europe and the state insect for several U.S. states, though it is an introduced species here. One spread shows the beetle’s “paper-thin back wings” and raised “fiery-red front wings, ready for takeoff.” In another, she chomps on “sugary aphid bugs.” In the foreground, more aphids wait on a thorny stem. Occasional factoids appear on the spreads in ladybug-egg–shaped sidebars. The text covers the insect’s behavior, its feeding habits, its armor, wing structure and foul flavor, its defenses, usefulness and winter dormancy. Several pages show egg laying, larva and pupa development and the emergence of golden new ladybugs (the red color and spots develop later). Their one-year lifespan is mentioned only in a sidebar. First published in England as a companion to the author and illustrator’s Bee Life (2013, not reviewed), this title, like many European imports, includes no sources for its facts and no suggestions for further reading. But the presentation is impressive. Combining relaxed storytelling and larger-than-life images, this is an appealing natural history read-aloud. (Informational picture book. 4-7)


Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60887-199-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Insight Editions

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.


Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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