A clever connection to the natural world for young readers and listeners.

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SPIT & STICKS

A CHIMNEY FULL OF SWIFTS

While a pair of swifts raises a family in their chimney, a Texas family grows as well.

The straightforward text in Evans’ first picture book follows a family of swifts from the pair’s return to the chimney of the farmhouse where they were born through nest-building, egg-laying and hatching, and feeding their chicks, who eventually fledge, fly, and feed themselves. In fall, the birds take off, joining a swarm of swifts heading for their winter home in the Southern Hemisphere. This simple narrative focuses exclusively on the birds, but it is mirrored by the activities of the mixed-race farming family shown in artfully primitive watercolor illustrations (with collage elements). One page shows the birds building their nest inside the chimney; opposite, the human father and daughter construct a crib while the visibly pregnant mother knits. While the birds “snuggle close” on the eggs, the human father reads to his daughter on his lap. A striking double-page spread shows the chicks emerging from their eggs. On the next pages, “It’s a Boy” balloons fly from the farmhouse mailbox. Throughout the summer the baby grows ever more capable, just as the chicks do. An endnote includes further information about swifts and suggestions for readers to learn more and help preserve these interesting birds.

A clever connection to the natural world for young readers and listeners. (Informational picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-58089-588-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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  • Caldecott Honor Book

CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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For readers who haven’t a musk ox of their own to snuggle up with, this tale proves just as cozy.

COZY

An agreeable Alaskan musk ox embodies that old Ben Franklin adage, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

When Cozy the ox is separated from his herd in the midst of a winter storm, he decides to wait it out. His massive size and warmth attract small animals—a lemming family and a snowshoe hare—desperate to escape the cold. However, as bigger, predatory creatures arrive, Cozy must lay down some “house rules” that grow with each new creature that arrives until they extend to: “Quiet voices, gentle thumping, claws to yourself, no biting, no pouncing, and be mindful of others!” Over time, the guests grow antsy, but at last spring arrives and Cozy can find his family. The tale is not dissimilar to another Jan Brett tale of cold weather and animals squeezing into a small space (The Mitten, 1989). Meticulous watercolors refrain from anthropomorphizing, rendering everyone, from massive Cozy to the tiniest of lemmings, in exquisite detail. This moving tale of gentle kindness serves as a clarion call for anyone searching for a book about creating your own community in times of trial. Brett even includes little details about real musk oxen in the text (such as their tendency to form protective circles to surround their vulnerable young), but readers hoping for further information in any backmatter will be disappointed. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 37.3% of actual size.)

For readers who haven’t a musk ox of their own to snuggle up with, this tale proves just as cozy. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10979-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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