An engaging animal-rescue tale, smoothly told and pleasingly illustrated.

READ REVIEW

SILENT SWOOP

AN OWL, AN EGG, AND A WARM SHIRT POCKET

A wildlife rehabilitator rescues eggs laid under a coal conveyor belt at a power plant, hatches them, and raises great horned owls to be public ambassadors for their species.

Houts pens a graceful, straightforward account of the rescue of a pair of eggs, carried to safety in Walter Crawford’s shirt pocket. One hatches. “And that’s the way it goes, sometimes,” he says. The survivor is named Coal for his origins and raised by bird sanctuary caregivers to help others learn about owls. Surprisingly, a year or two later, yet another egg appears under the conveyor belt in the power plant. Similarly rescued and hatched, Junior also becomes an owl ambassador. Softly realistic watercolor-and-pastel illustrations accompany the story, accentuating the mystery of the owl’s visits to the coal yard in the night as well as depicting Walter Crawford’s attentive care in the sanctuary. One spread features the owl showing off for a diverse group of schoolchildren sitting at the knee of the trainer, a woman of color. Crawford himself presents white. An author’s note explains the genesis of the story in the history of the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, Missouri, and the details she had to fill in, including Crawford’s dialogue. That fictional memorable line helpfully reminds readers and listeners of the chanciness of such rescues and, appearing twice, nicely ties the narrative together.

An engaging animal-rescue tale, smoothly told and pleasingly illustrated. (explore more, activities) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-58469-647-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dawn Publications

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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