For fledgling readers, another appreciation of the natural world.

MY HAPPY YEAR BY E. BLUEBIRD

An Eastern bluebird recounts the first year of her life.

Again relying on his own backyard observations as well as credited experts, Meisel offers a follow-up to his much-admired My Awesome Summer, by P. Mantis (2017). This description of a bluebird’s life is straightforward in its content but versatile in its presentation. What might ordinarily be backmatter, appropriate for a relatively advanced reader, comes first: a spread offering a general description of the species illustrated with images of male and female birds and their foods, along with the map to show the range. The rest of the text is just right for beginners. Short, dated journal entries are set on appealing acrylic paintings of the birds and their surroundings. Working through the year from E. Bluebird’s birthday in June to the hatching of her own chicks the following summer, the author/illustrator describes important stages: a blind beginning, feeding and pooping in the nest, the first scary flight, the joy of flying, migration south and back up north, finding a mate, building a nest, and laying eggs of her own. Actual backmatter includes a short glossary and suggestions for further learning or doing. Less informative overall than Pamela F. Kirby’s photo essay What Bluebirds Do (2009), this is more accessible for beginners, with its simple vocabulary, short sentences, and first-person narrative. The pair would complement each other nicely on a nature shelf.

For fledgling readers, another appreciation of the natural world. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3837-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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