Why ask children to think deep thoughts when you can offer a superficial variation on the common “Where’s Mama?” theme...

WHO AM I?

Two picture-book veterans offer a phoned-in collaboration that blows off not only the Big Question it poses, but the plot, too.

A puzzled hatchling chameleon actually has two posers: “Could you tell me who I am and where I come from?” he asks of a giraffe, an elephant and a succession of other jungle animals. No, replies each, identifying itself in a patterned way—“I am the cheetah and I am the fastest animal in the whole wide world, but I do not know what sort of creature you are.” A toothy crocodile at last promises enlightenment if only the little tyke will come closer…but just as he’s is about to climb on the croc’s nose, along comes Mama Chameleon to identify her little one as “my little baby chameleon, the most beautiful and unusual creature in the whole wide world!” and whisk him away to meet his many sibs. In his loosely brushed pictures, Ross adds an ingenious detail to the narrative by having the little one adopt the colors of each animal he questions, but he contradicts Phinn’s version of the climax (having the lizard clamber atop the nose of a croc whose mouth is closer to closed than wide open as described) and, in blithe disregard for internal logic, inexplicably sends the suddenly meek crocodile packing.

Why ask children to think deep thoughts when you can offer a superficial variation on the common “Where’s Mama?” theme instead? (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8996-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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

FLY GUY PRESENTS: SHARKS

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. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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