An intelligent read-aloud for those not quite ready to tackle the existing independent readers.



Every dog has his day, but Balto’s life is comparable to an early 20th-century movie star’s.

McCarthy’s coverage begins in Nome, Alaska, in 1925. Dr. Welch presides at the bedside of a diphtheria-stricken child and follows up with a desperate telegram for the serum needed to prevent an epidemic. While Balto’s legendary role in braving a blizzard to deliver the antitoxin in record time is dramatically portrayed, the author’s primary interest lies in recounting the rest of the Siberian husky’s story. Balto went on to star in a film about the relay race that prefigured the Iditarod. He stayed at the Biltmore in Los Angeles, rubbed elbows with famous actors and posed for a sculpture in New York’s Central Park. When the canine’s fortunes changed, he performed in vaudeville until a Cleveland businessman (and schoolchildren) paid for his transfer to a zoo. Employing the style established in her previous historical investigations (ranging from Charles Atlas to bubble gum), the author selects child-friendly details, explains challenging words in context and re-creates period documents and settings. Her signature acrylic caricatures, identifiable by oversized eyes, convey a sense of attentiveness in keeping with the narrative. The predominance of snow and gray light creates a mood of remote desolation; the palette brightens to warm greens at the conclusion.

An intelligent read-aloud for those not quite ready to tackle the existing independent readers. (maps, author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-84460-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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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. 29, 2018

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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