Both beautiful and educational.

“Elephants to pygmy wrasses, / vertebrates are grouped by classes.”

Lord’s rhyming verse explores those different vertebrate classes (reptiles, fish, mammals, birds, amphibians) in language that is understandable, sometimes humorous and even elegant at times; always, it highlights the basic characteristics that mark the animals of each class and gives some facts about a few species. “Every noise / a reptile hears / through covered holes, / not floppy ears.” “Daddy sea horse / swims so slow; / in his brood pouch / babies grow.” Other verses describe how the animals are born, whether they are coldblooded or warmblooded, whether they have skin, scales or fur, and what adaptations they enjoy. “Hollow bones help / eagles fly. / Feathers take them / through the sky.” Garland’s “digi-woodcut” illustrations are a highlight. His realistic animals share shadings and habitats with the natural world, while the look of the art is rustic and scratchy. The colors are particularly vivid; one undersea page about fish has the look of batik, while a group of wolves in a snowy scene uses just grays, browns and white. Backmatter includes a chart of characteristics, examples and exceptions; an afterword (“Invertebrates / are spineless things— / lobster, spider, / bugs with wings!”); bibliography; and websites.

Both beautiful and educational. (Informational picture book/poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3045-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014


From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016


Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look...

Winning actually isn’t everything, as jazz-happy Rooster learns when he goes up against the legendary likes of Mules Davis and Ella Finchgerald at the barnyard talent show.

Having put together a band with renowned cousin Duck Ellington and singer “Bee” Holiday, Rooster’s chances sure look good—particularly after his “ ‘Hen from Ipanema’ [makes] / the barnyard chickies swoon.”—but in the end the competition is just too stiff. No matter: A compliment from cool Mules and the conviction that he still has the world’s best band soon puts the strut back in his stride. Alexander’s versifying isn’t always in tune (“So, he went to see his cousin, / a pianist of great fame…”), and despite his moniker Rooster plays an electric bass in Bower’s canted country scenes. Children are unlikely to get most of the jokes liberally sprinkled through the text, of course, so the adults sharing it with them should be ready to consult the backmatter, which consists of closing notes on jazz’s instruments, history and best-known musicians.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58536-688-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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