Stunningly contemporary and amazingly timeless.

THE MOST AMAZING BIRD

An Inuk girl learns lessons in beauty and friendship from an unexpected source.

One day, while crunching along the hard snow with her grandmother, Aggataa spies a raven. But instead of reacting with awe, she says “it’s ugly” and thinks it “looks like it slept in its coat.” Despite Aggataa’s wish for the raven to fly away, it stays all winter, “hop[ping] along behind her” whenever she walks to grandmother’s hut. Aggataa begins to warm to it. When spring returns the raven leaves, and although other birds arrive for the summer, the raven does not. Before long Aggataa observes “long Vs of geese flying south,” and with “no more birds” around, the coming winter promises to be lonely. Only the “Crah” of a particular raven can hope to lift her spirits. Kusugak’s quiet narrative is deeply layered. While the primary narrative revolves around Aggataa’s interaction with the raven and other birds, readers will notice equally poignant threads of story in the changing of seasons, life in the Arctic, and within the multigenerational relationship between Aggataa and her grandmother. Additionally, inclusion of both Inuktitut words for the various birds Aggataa encounters and the onomatopoeic sounds they make creates a wonderful read-aloud. Qappik’s realistic, soft-toned illustrations are rich in their own right. Images of Aggataa and her grandmother feel like snapshots from a family photo album while the detailed depictions of the birds could exist in any ornithological field guide. Both author and illustrator are Inuit.

Stunningly contemporary and amazingly timeless. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-418-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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