A story that sacrifices facts for drama about creatures that have lived on Earth since the dinosaurs (a fact readers won’t...

BEWARE OF THE CROCODILE

A picture book that presents some information about crocodiles.

The book begins: “If there’s one thing you should know about crocodiles, it’s that they’re really scary.” And that does crocodiles a huge disservice. While the story does present some crocodile facts—crocodile mothers build nests of leaves and lay between 40 and 60 eggs; crocodiles don’t need to eat that often—the bulk of the story focuses on how crocodiles sneak up on their prey and eat them. Author Jenkins’ tone is conversational and droll, but the dry humor doesn’t outweigh the story’s fearmongering (“waiting for something—or even somebody—to come down to drink”). It’s hard to know what purpose this serves, other than developing in readers a fear of the natural world. Kitamura’s mixed-media illustrations, featuring large, toothy crocodiles that sprawl, side-to, across double-page spreads, are largely redundant. Sometimes the crocodile faces left, sometimes right. The backmatter offers additional information: There are 16 kinds of crocodiles; the crocodiles featured in the book are saltwater crocodiles. As this is not relayed in the story itself, readers may feel some confusion with basic facts: Do all kinds build nests out of leaves? Do they all lay 40 to 60 eggs? “More Information” lists all of two websites, one last updated in 2012.

A story that sacrifices facts for drama about creatures that have lived on Earth since the dinosaurs (a fact readers won’t find in this book). (index) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7538-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers.

THE INFAMOUS RATSOS

From the Infamous Ratsos series , Vol. 1

Two little rats decide to show the world how tough they are, with unpredictable results.

Louie and Ralphie Ratso want to be just like their single dad, Big Lou: tough! They know that “tough” means doing mean things to other animals, like stealing Chad Badgerton’s hat. Chad Badgerton is a big badger, so taking that hat from him proves that Louie and Ralphie are just as tough as they want to be. However, it turns out that Louie and Ralphie have just done a good deed instead of a bad one: Chad Badgerton had taken that hat from little Tiny Crawley, a mouse, so when Tiny reclaims it, they are celebrated for goodness rather than toughness. Sadly, every attempt Louie and Ralphie make at doing mean things somehow turns nice. What’s a little boy rat supposed to do to be tough? Plus, they worry about what their dad will say when he finds out how good they’ve been. But wait! Maybe their dad has some other ideas? LaReau keeps the action high and completely appropriate for readers embarking on chapter books. Each of the first six chapters features a new, failed attempt by Louie and Ralphie to be mean, and the final, seventh chapter resolves everything nicely. The humor springs from their foiled efforts and their reactions to their failures. Myers’ sprightly grayscale drawings capture action and characters and add humorous details, such as the Ratsos’ “unwelcome” mat.

A nicely inventive little morality “tail” for newly independent readers. (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7636-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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