A moving and unforgettable true story of one worthwhile effort to counter humans’ negative impact on wildlife.




From the CitizenKid series

This picture book offers a fresh perspective on Earth’s largest land mammals.

Following his father’s death, Aaron, a black Zambian boy, takes over his father’s job at the distant Lion’s Lodge to help support his family. One morning, he rescues a baby elephant from drowning in the lodge pool. The keepers from a local elephant orphanage who take custody of the calf invite Aaron to visit. When Aaron faces criticism at home because some consider elephants a dangerous nuisance, Aaron’s mother tells him, “Don’t listen to them….You did the right thing. You don’t just let an animal die.” Aaron visits the orphanage and amazes the keepers when Zambezi, the baby elephant, who had refused to eat, finishes a bottle of milk for Aaron. Thus begins a beautiful friendship and a new career for Aaron. The backmatter features a photograph of the real-life Aaron, who has worked at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery since 2012 and now serves as team leader of the elephant keepers. Double-page informational spreads about elephant biology, their endangered status, the nursery, and more punctuate the beautiful and emotionally charged mixed-media paintings that carry the text-heavy narrative. The first informational spread comes as a surprise because the book reads like fiction, but readers will find them useful for understanding the experiences of Aaron and Bezi.

A moving and unforgettable true story of one worthwhile effort to counter humans’ negative impact on wildlife. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77138-561-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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