SABERTOOTH

Sabertooth is actually the name for a group of large prehistoric cats, distant cousins of today’s tigers. This dramatic introduction describes the group, especially the well-known Smilodon. O’Brien describes skeletons found fossilized in the La Brea Tar Pits and suggests theories about how and what the cats hunted. An actual size Smilodon fang contrasts with the much smaller canine tooth of today’s tiger, and a double-page spread of possible fur colors and patterns emphasizes that fossils don’t provide this information. The detailed paintings portray other prehistoric predators and their prey, including Homo erectus in ancient Africa and early Native Americans, perhaps implying that they coexisted in time. The theory offered for Smilodon extinction—“the world was getting warmer”—is an over-simplification of the end of an Ice Age, and of various theories that include the co-extinction of the mammoths and the presence of human hunters. With a cover image of a snarling tiger, attractive design and relatively small amount of text, this may be irresistible, but buy with care. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7105-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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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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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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