A lively addition to the animal shelf.



Just like human children, animals love to play, both to practice adult skills and to have fun.

Gianferrari plays with words, especially action verbs, to introduce an unusual array of animals. “Plonk, dig, slide” and “rub, plop, blow” are the sounds of collared peccaries and rhinos in the mud. “Nibble-fumble, hurdle-tumble, ready to rumble” describes wrestling rats. These playful words and phrases appear in large uppercase letters set at a slight angle to represent movement on the page. A straightforward short sentence identifies the animal and its actions. Boxed explanations add information—ungulates are mammals with hooves, for example—and describe what the depicted animals are learning. Playing tug of war, wolves learn fair play. Both elephants and dolphins practice cooperation through play. Other examples are monkeys, ravens, river otters, dolphins, kangaroos, gorillas, and keas. In the backmatter the author explains why readers should play, how they should “play by the rules, like these animals do”: stepping away if hurt; apologizing; accepting the apology. Finally, there is a further, fairly dense paragraph about each of the featured animals. Illustrator Powell used paints, handmade textures, and digital techniques to create her appealing images. Most spreads show the animals in a natural scene, but a few show a diverse set of five children and the artist’s own black-and-white dog. (On the jacket-flap bio she invites readers to look for him.)

A lively addition to the animal shelf. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5415-5771-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Despite minor bumps, a ride that’s worth returning to.


Pearl and her robot, Pascal, take their coding skills for a spin at the amusement park in this Girls Who Code picture book, a follow-up to How To Code a Sandcastle (2018).

The park has many rides to choose from, and Pearl has 10 tokens to last her the day. But her favorite ride, the Python roller coaster, looks busy. Pearl decides to do something else fun, using code concepts such as variables to keep track of the length of the line and her remaining tokens and a conditional statement to decide when to return to the Python. Throughout, computer science terms are defined crisply in the text and vividly illustrated in the pictures, which use images such as popcorn bags for variables and the Ferris wheel for loops (keeping track of ice cream flavors seems somewhat contrived). The backmatter explains these ideas more fully. Pascal’s too-literal interpretations of Pearl’s statements make for several amusing moments along the way. When Pearl runs short of tokens (a missed opportunity to talk about checking for more than one condition?), she’s undaunted by the disaster, taking readers on a fun hunt for a secret hidden password, in a nod to the importance of proper sequencing. Pearl has brown skin and black curls; others at the park have a variety of skin tones.

Despite minor bumps, a ride that’s worth returning to. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-425-29203-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.


Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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