May inspire budding owl enthusiasts.

OTIS THE OWL

A photographic guide to a young barred owl’s first few months of life.

Otis the owl is born in a tree cavity. Holland cannot capture the nest on film because it is too deep, but she does get Otis’ wide-eyed look at the world for the first time when he climbs to the cavity opening. He’s just a little ball of fluff perched in a tree. Readers get a surprise when another ball of fluff appears. Otis has a sister! Touching on the general skills a young owl must learn to become independent (how to eat, strengthening wings for flight), Holland lightly dips in to this bird of prey’s life. Concepts such as predator and prey, nocturnal, and preening are explored, and a smattering of direct questions lend a conversational tone. Alas, Otis never flies triumphantly from the tree—he only perches on a limb at the story’s end—so there is not much resolution to this story of animal maturation cast as hero’s quest. Large blocks of text squeezed into recto (with one exception) page frames make for a monotonous design, but it does give ample room for photographs, which propel the focus.

May inspire budding owl enthusiasts. (additional information, activities) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62855-9392

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Arbordale Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

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. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Has to be said: It hits all the right notes.

A VERY MERCY CHRISTMAS

DiCamillo and illustrator Van Dusen collaborate again, this time on a holiday story that includes their beloved porcine heroine, Mercy Watson.

Though Stella, who lives next door to the Watsons, is determined to spread spur-of-the-moment Christmas spirit, when she goes door to door asking for neighbors to go caroling with her, no one is willing except for Mercy, General Washington the cat, and Maybelline the horse. The quartet’s loud and “not very musical” version of “Deck the Halls” brings out the neighbors for an accordion concert and an impromptu merry feast. In any other hands, this story might be too saccharine, but thanks to DiCamillo’s quirky and endearing characters and subtle use of scene, it feels like a bit of Christmas magic. Van Dusen’s distinct rosy-cheeked characters give life to the uniquely named neighbors. Perhaps the most powerful illustration shows the group hand in hand looking up at the stars. Readers’ perspective is from below them, forcing the eye up and into the beautiful night “above the tired and hopeful earth,” a pitch-perfect pairing with DiCamillo’s poetic text. This celebration of community lit from the spark of just one joyful child anchors this familiar, warm story. Stella is biracial, and most of her neighbors are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Has to be said: It hits all the right notes. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1360-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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