TOUGH BEGINNINGS

HOW BABY ANIMALS SURVIVE

All sorts of baby animals have tough beginnings, whether they are tiny sea turtles scrambling to reach the ocean before they are eaten, cicadas emerging from a 17-year sleep, or penguin chicks surviving in the minus-70-degree temperatures of Antarctica. Singer (Fred’s Bed, p. 593, etc.) gives interesting details about a dozen diverse animals from around the world, including opossums, whales, wood ducks, fruit bats, desert spadefoot toads, and kangaroos. The newly hatched Komodo dragon lizard may face the biggest challenge. Papa is a large lizard that eats anything that moves, including his own young. Says Singer in one of her opening captions: “It’s not easy when Dad wants to eat you . . .” Each animal is presented in a double-paged spread with a full-color painting capturing both the habitat and the animal described. Especially successful are the plates showing the desert spadefoot toad from egg to adult and the cicada nymph buried under the roots of a tree and also emerging as an adult. Last to be introduced is the human baby. Though Singer writes: “Compared with many other babies, we humans have it easy.” She gives brief facts about more animal babies, a note urging conservation, and, on the back cover, connects all the animals introduced with a poem which begins: “It’s tough to begin on the beaches, / It’s tough to begin in the seas. / It’s tough to hang on to your mother, / It’s hard to jump out of trees.” The picture-book format, handsome paintings, and fascinating choice of facts presented make this an engaging and useful science nature title for younger children. (Nonfiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6164-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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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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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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