One wonders what habitats are left for Berkes to tackle; here’s hoping there’s a least one more.

READ REVIEW

OVER IN THE GRASSLANDS

ON AN AFRICAN SAVANNA

Berkes and Dubin tackle another habitat in their series of variations on “Over in the Meadow,” this time visiting the African savanna.

As in others in the series, each turn of the page/verse of the song introduces a new animal parent and an ever increasing number of babies as the family does something natural within its habitat: the zebras gallop, the giraffes slurp acacia leaves, the elephants squirt water, and the hippos graze. The mother lion teaches her five cubs to stalk, the babies hunkered down against the ground behind a screen of grass, though the prey is neither mentioned nor shown. The family group of chimpanzees swing in the trees “over in the grasslands,” which may be very confusing to young children. The backmatter explains that while most live in the rain forest, some have adapted to living in the savanna. Other animals include hornbills, aardvarks, meerkats, and jackals. All the animals are pictured on a map of the African continent in the backmatter, which also includes a paragraph of information about each, more about the savanna habitat, blurbs about the hidden animal in each spread, the requisite “Fact or Fiction” paragraph, notes from the author and illustrator, and the song lyrics and music. Some brilliant and unusual color choices, along with marvelously textured and patterned papers, make the cut-paper collage illustrations pop.

One wonders what habitats are left for Berkes to tackle; here’s hoping there’s a least one more. (Informational picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58469-567-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dawn Publications

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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