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THE STORY OF A WHITE RHINO

A powerful conservation message.

Is the male white rhinoceros at the zoo the only one of his kind left?

The text is sparse and thoughtful. The artwork combines sophisticated collage—including words from many languages inscribed on buildings and animals—with a distinctive drawing style that breathes life equally into humans and animals, automobiles and elevated trains, gritty urban settings and vividly flowered meadows. The first double-page spread has a beige-and-gray palette that sets a somber mood. A young person of color—who reappears later—is gazing toward the protagonist’s large, foregrounded head. A gray city lies behind this figure. The only words: “I am the last.” The next spread continues the bleakness with an aerial view of the zoo and its surrounds. The text continues with the rhino’s sad musing. The pages that follow are a bright and joyous contrast, as readers see the rhinoceros recalling his native land. No one could fail to be moved by baby rhinos cavorting in flamingo-filled waters or by the protagonist gazing adoringly at his mama, who smells “beautiful.” The mother’s death from a horn poacher’s bullet is subtly portrayed but obvious enough to elicit questions from young readers. More “lasts” at the zoo create further pathos. The rhino’s eventual, final relocation will dispel some of the tale’s grimness for little ones; older readers will feel less optimistic when they read the endnotes about a real rhino named Sudan. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.25-by-18.5-inch double-page spreads viewed at 74% of actual size.)

A powerful conservation message. (note on art) (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-910328-64-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiny Owl

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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ADA TWIST AND THE PERILOUS PANTS

From the Questioneers series , Vol. 2

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book.

Ada Twist’s incessant stream of questions leads to answers that help solve a neighborhood crisis.

Ada conducts experiments at home to answer questions such as, why does Mom’s coffee smell stronger than Dad’s coffee? Each answer leads to another question, another hypothesis, and another experiment, which is how she goes from collecting data on backyard birds for a citizen-science project to helping Rosie Revere figure out how to get her uncle Ned down from the sky, where his helium-filled “perilous pants” are keeping him afloat. The Questioneers—Rosie the engineer, Iggy Peck the architect, and Ada the scientist—work together, asking questions like scientists. Armed with knowledge (of molecules and air pressure, force and temperature) but more importantly, with curiosity, Ada works out a solution. Ada is a recognizable, three-dimensional girl in this delightfully silly chapter book: tirelessly curious and determined yet easily excited and still learning to express herself. If science concepts aren’t completely clear in this romp, relationships and emotions certainly are. In playful full- and half-page illustrations that break up the text, Ada is black with Afro-textured hair; Rosie and Iggy are white. A closing section on citizen science may inspire readers to get involved in science too; on the other hand, the “Ode to a Gas!” may just puzzle them. Other backmatter topics include the importance of bird study and the threat palm-oil use poses to rainforests.

Adventure, humor, and smart, likable characters make for a winning chapter book. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3422-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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WILLOW THE WHITE HOUSE CAT

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet.

First Lady Biden and Capucilli, author of the Biscuit series, explain how Willow the cat came to reside at the White House.

Willow lives contentedly in a barn. One day, she’s curious when cars approach and people gather to hear a blond woman speak. Willow draws closer, then is delighted as the woman lifts her up and hugs her. That evening, light-skinned Farmer Rick tells Willow she made “quite an impression”: The visitor has invited Willow to live with her. A car arrives to drive Willow away to the White House, her new home in Washington, D.C. There, she’s welcomed by the first lady—the same woman who tenderly held her at the farm. Willow meets the president and explores her new home, filled with elegantly furnished rooms, grand staircases, and historic portraits. Plus, there’s a toy-filled basket! Best of all, there are wonderful people who work in and visit this beautiful house who show Willow kindness and affection. Willow’s favorite resting spot is at the president’s side in the Oval Office, though she also enjoys watching the first lady read to children on the lawn. Animal lovers will especially appreciate this sweet, cat’s-eye view of the White House, which helps humanize the first family by depicting them as ordinary feline fanciers. The loose ink, acrylic, and paint illustrations are cheerful and cozy. Background characters are racially diverse.

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet. (author’s note from Biden, photos) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781665952057

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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