Naturalists will be enthralled.

WHO WAS HERE?

DISCOVERING WILD ANIMAL TRACKS

Even the very young can identify animal tracks when it’s made this much fun.

Rhyming couplets that give clues to an animal’s identity and accompany illustrations of life-size (but admittedly not always realistically spaced) tracks and a few habitat clues encourage children to guess who made the print. “Round footprints left by two-toed feet / pressed into the sand in the desert heat. / This animal lives without water for days, / traveling under scorching sun rays.” Snaking (literally) between the prints is a long, S-shaped line. The turn of the page reveals the tracks’ makers—“A camel and a snake!”—and a paragraph of information about these animals (dromedary camels and horned vipers) follows. Other featured animals include black bear, gray wolves, moose, kangaroos, hippos, cattle egrets, beavers and a jaguar. Posada’s illustrations give great clues, and the answer pages mostly show both close-ups of the animals and at least one full-body image against the animals’ habitat. Backmatter encourages readers to use all the clues a track gives to identify the animal: number of toes, whether claws are visible or not, size of the track, how deeply impressed the track is, how far apart they’re spaced, etc. Tracks of nonfeatured animals in the background of the page challenge readers. The only thing that’s missing is an instructional note about using paper cups and plaster of Paris to cast found tracks.

Naturalists will be enthralled. (websites, further reading, answer key) (Informational picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-1871-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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 charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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