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WAKE UP, ISLAND

A mixed bag, to be sure, but for those children living near these island oases, there is much that will seem familiar.

Casanova turns in something different with this lyrical look at an island’s start to a brand new day.

There is no plot, just a series of island vignettes that are sometimes beautiful in their simplicity, the typesetting of the words on the pages at times echoing their meanings: “Pine trees s t r e t c h / their limbs and branches.” Precise words introduce nature vocabulary to little listeners—dangle, plunge, gargle, shimmy—and paint word pictures: “Heron swoops, / a two-stilt statue.” And the island is filled with the flora and fauna of the north woods: deer, moose, spider, loon, mallards, bees. Greens, blues, and browns dominate Wroblewski’s woodcuts. The ravens and chickadees are so close to realistic they might fly away, the heron’s feathers are gorgeously detailed, and the bear and red squirrel scenes might be artwork on a wall. Other times, though, the illustrations are a miss—the opening spread of water and sky is unrealistic to the point of being abstract, and the closing picture uses the same sky. The addition of “you,” a blond, white child who wakes up, eats breakfast, and rushes out to explore the world, can be seen as intruding on the natural scene, and Wroblewski’s close-up of this child is wooden and almost ugly.

A mixed bag, to be sure, but for those children living near these island oases, there is much that will seem familiar. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8166-8935-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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