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

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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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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