Despite visual hiccups, this much-needed tale of cooperation and inclusivity will be welcomed by readers of all ages.

THE BELONGING TREE

In the big oak tree, life couldn’t be better—there are squirrels everywhere. But with summer comes discord.

Who invited the noisy blue jays? And why are there so many chipmunks? Hey, where did those beavers come from? Pa and Ma are not amused. Archie Bunker–like proclamations issue forth from disgruntled Pa. “Blue jays don’t belong here!” Pa grumps. And: “Beavers are the worst neighbors of all!” When they pack up and move across the river, Ma tells her son, “Look, Zeke! There are lots of squirrels here, just like you.” But Zeke misses his friends. On his way to visit them, a sudden storm wreaks havoc. He is stranded on a branch, dangling over the river, when his family’s maple tree comes crashing down. The former neighbors come to the rescue and return the squirrel family to the oak tree, where they all truly belong—together. Cocca-Leffler’s message-driven story is easily accessible, with concise, clear sentences, and Lombardi’s bright, humorous, and inviting illustrations of the forest setting are eye-catching. However, there’s a jarring disconnect between the anthropomorphized squirrels and beavers and the realistically rendered chipmunks. Also, one sequence of spreads, in which the squirrels move from the left bank to the right but Zeke’s old friends wave at him from the right bank, is visually confusing. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Despite visual hiccups, this much-needed tale of cooperation and inclusivity will be welcomed by readers of all ages. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30513-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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 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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