Bravo for a courageous boy’s achievement.


A boy defies his father’s warning and rescues a whale tangled in their sole fishing net.

The story opens with two clear viewpoints. Papa is distressed their only source of income is in jeopardy; Abelardo is very concerned for the whale’s survival. He remembers a time when he had been trapped in a net and almost drowned before his father saved him. Papa leaves to borrow another net, and Abelardo, alone on the beach, takes their outboard-equipped panga out to the ensnared whale, dives in, and bravely works with a small knife to cut the tough plastic netting, finally freeing the animal. The boy’s daring determination and his emotional and physical struggles are evident in the succinct, first-person narrative, which builds urgency, fear, and suspense to a one-word crescendo—“…BREATHE!”—when Abelardo and whale must surface to do so. Realistic pen-and-ink–and-acrylic paintings alternate between sunny, glimmering sea and beach scenes and dark underwater scenes done in aquas and grays. The drama is vividly shown, paralleling the boy’s passion with the whale’s defeated resignation in a double-page image of the boy’s grim face next to and as large as the gray whale’s sad eye. The inspiring, humane adventure joyfully concludes with Gerstein’s pinnacle scenes of the whale breaching joyfully. A Latin American coastal setting is indicated with naming conventions; Abelardo and his father have brown skin and straight, black hair.

Bravo for a courageous boy’s achievement. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-505-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.


From the Fly Guy series

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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