Not a gold or silver but maybe a bronze.

THE WILDLIFE WINTER GAMES

A winter-sports metaphor to generate open-ended conversations about animal species.

Turner and Clifford have created a complex book that puts the power of decision in the hands of its readers. The story begins with a summation of the Wildlife Winter Games: 30 species of Arctic and Antarctic creatures compete for medals across 10 different sporting events. It will be up to readers to determine who wins each event. On the succeeding pages, different species are described under the filter of specific attributes. For example, in terms of hockey, polar bears’ large paws are advantageous when defending the goal, while wolverines are tenacious, and penguins are graceful and work well as a team. Which has the advantage? In this regard, the book is refreshing; its goal is not to create a traditionally plotted story but to provide a framework for readers to consider the merits presented and determine which qualities would ultimately lead to victory. While this concept should be applauded, there are a lot of missteps along the way, most notably the very narrow presentation of the animals’ attributes. Readers do not even learn which are from the Arctic and which are from the Antarctic. There is no backmatter for further reading nor even a map. Clifford’s illustrations of animals with sporting gear are humorous and slightly surreal but do little to enhance readers’ decision-making.

Not a gold or silver but maybe a bronze. (Informational picture book. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-76036-075-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012).

UGLY

A memoir of the first 14 years in the life of Australian Robert Hoge, born with stunted legs and a tumor in the middle of his face.

In 1972, Robert is born, the youngest of five children, with fishlike eyes on the sides of his face, a massive lump in place of his nose, and malformed legs. As baby Robert is otherwise healthy, the doctors convince his parents to approve the first of many surgeries to reduce his facial difference. One leg is also amputated, and Robert comes home to his everyday white, working-class family. There's no particular theme to the tale of Robert's next decade and a half: he experiences school and teasing, attempts to participate in sports, and is shot down by a girl. Vignette-driven choppiness and the lack of an overarching narrative would make the likeliest audience be those who seek disability stories. However, young Robert's ongoing quest to identify as "normal"—a quest that remains unchanged until a sudden turnaround on the penultimate page—risks alienating readers comfortable with their disabilities. Brief lyrical moments ("as compulsory as soggy tomato sandwiches at snack time") appeal but are overwhelmed by the dry, distant prose dominating this autobiography.

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28775-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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