A lovely if incomplete story of animals and humans living together.

ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF THE SEAS

Can you imagine living in a city with an enormous elephant seal in residence?

Once upon a time in New Zealand, an elephant seal took up residence in the shallow Avon River and sunned herself in the parks and on the sides of the roads there. No matter how many times the humans roped her and towed her back to the open ocean, she would find her way back to the place she loved: the city of Christchurch. Cox, an open-water swimmer, must identify with the long swims that Elizabeth took in order to find her way home. Floca’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations beautifully depict both the grandeur of the ocean and the architectural details of the bridges and buildings of Christchurch. Catching the sea at all times of the day, Floca treats readers to rare evening views of orange, darkening skies and water. Modern children will marvel at the freedom of Michael, the main character. He is a young boy alone: walking to school, playing by the beach and visiting the water at night to wish upon the stars. Though based on a true story, there are no bibliographic references for readers to follow to find further information about Elizabeth, nor is there any mention of when the story took place beyond dated-looking cars.

A lovely if incomplete story of animals and humans living together. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-375-85888-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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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Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow,...

MY NEW FRIEND IS SO FUN!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Can Gerald and Piggie’s friendship withstand the friendly overtures of Brian Bat?

When Snake informs Gerald that Piggie is playing with Brian Bat, he is at first complacent. Brian is “nice,” he observes; Snake concurs—after all, he says, “Brian is my Best Friend!” Their mutual reflection that Piggie and Brian “must be having a super-duper fun time!” turns, however, to paranoia when they realize that if their best pals “are having that much fun together, then… / …maybe they do not need us” (that last is printed in teeny-tiny, utterly demoralized type). Gerald and Snake dash/slither to put an end to the fun. Their fears are confirmed when the two new buddies tell them they have “been playing BEST FRIEND GAMES!”—which, it turns out, means making drawings of their respective best friends, Gerald and Snake. Awww. While the buildup to the friends’ confrontation is characteristically funny, there’s a certain feeling of anticlimax to the story’s resolution. How many young children, when playing with a new friend, are likely to spend their time thinking of the friends that they are not playing with? This is unfortunate, as the emotions that Gerald and Snake experience are realistic and profound, deserving of more than a platitudinous, unrealistic response.

Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow, color-coded speech bubbles, hilarious body language—except an emotionally satisfying ending. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7958-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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