Carefully calibrated for its audience.

CAT GOES FAST

From the Cat's Adventures series

A skateboarding cat demonstrates simple concepts and numeracy.

Pink-shorts–wearing Cat is on a roll, zipping and flipping by various animal friends. Purcell introduces basic concepts such as colors, counting, and some opposites (fast/slow, first/last), among others. The text follows a simple structure within a rhyming format, each page featuring one declarative sentence always beginning with “Cat.” As a result, the book keeps a nice pace with a predictable rhythm, a boon for little listeners who thrive on repetition. Even the illustrations follow the same pattern. Each layout features the same solid teal background on the verso while the recto is sky-blue. There is no variation until both hues darken at nighttime in the final spread. Cat’s facial expressions never change, save one page with a slight frown. This is a stylistic choice that misses an easy opportunity to further engage readers. All of the animal friends—small birds, a turtle, and an owl—also share Cat’s minimalistic style. The text does not use any gendered pronouns. Overall, the book is just right for infant and toddler listeners who crave familiar patterns and will zero in on slight, intentional differences from page to page.

Carefully calibrated for its audience. (Board book. 6 mos.-2)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-80036-002-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Tiny Seed

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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 ferociously entertaining blend of wonder, thrills, and science.

DINOSAUR ADVENTURE

From the Zoom series

Young explorers risk prehistoric perils and cataclysmic destruction to learn about the dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous.

Best friends Jasmine (who has brown skin and wears dark hair in a braid) and Jamie (who presents White and has a thatch of brown hair) set their time machine for the days of the dinosaurs, go exploring, and make it home in time for dinner. This well-constructed board book is both visually engaging and as rich in information as it is in adventure. It features 17 different two-page set pieces, 24 distinctly labeled prehistoric creatures, creative die cuts offering tantalizing peeks at what lies beyond each turn of the page, and a spectacular pop-up of the asteroid that caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The adventurers journey through or over habitats ranging from jungles, swamps, deserts, plains, and oceans and fly through the air and dive in the sea with the help of a friendly pterosaur and elasmosaurus, respectively. The featured creatures are all Age-appropriate, as is the asteroid. The two friends are cool and cavalier about tracking T. rex and chasing Velociraptor. Caregivers might want to caution their charges that, if or when they get their time machines working, they should exercise appropriate caution when approaching powerful, carnivorous eating machines. Companion volume Rainforest Adventure stars a light-brown–skinned girl named Lin and is a similarly engaging and informative trek down the Amazon and, once again, home by dinner. Both offer inspiration for inquisitive young adventurers everywhere.

A ferociously entertaining blend of wonder, thrills, and science. (Board book. 1-5)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-912920-46-4

Page Count: 36

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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