Good intentions crash and burn when the ill winds of pedantry overwhelm this story of a garden’s year. Here is Little Groundhog doing what groundhogs were born to do: seek and destroy gardens. Along comes Squirrel, looking to turn Nature on its ear with admonition and instruction. “ ‘Little Groundhog!’ Squirrel scolded. ‘This garden does not belong to you. . . . Why don’t you plant your OWN garden?’ ‘I’m sorry,’ Little Groundhog told her, embarrassed, ‘but I don’t know how.’ ‘Well, then,’ replied Squirrel, ‘I will show you.’ ” And he does, teaching elementary gardening as he goes. While there is no denying the elegance of Cherry’s illustrations—some full-bleed, others bordered by the subjects of the page, all peopled with winsome creatures—the text is a relentless machine that force-feeds its message, something like what a duck must experience getting the foie gras treatment. “First, you will need seeds.” “First, we need to dig in the soil to loosen it up.” “First, we’ll need to cut them into little pieces with 2 sprouts each.” Sensible comments are made regarding organic gardening, the big difference in flavor between garden fresh vegetables and the store-bought variety, and the pleasure of the harvest, though this last, too, can feel strained: “Little Groundhog cried jubilantly.” “Little Groundhog rejoiced!” Maybe it’s all best summed up in Cherry’s footnote: “But it’s not magic—it’s science; it’s life.” Banishing magic from the garden—there’s an idea whose time should never come. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-439-32371-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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