Get ready to race! Jungle animals, led by three delightfully illustrated animal children, are racing for the joy of it in this rhyming children’s book debut by Rogers (Out of His Mouth!, 2012).
Timmy the tiger, Joshua the jaguar, and Jessica the giraffe decide to plan a junglewide race, inviting all the jungle creatures to compete. Climbing up Jessica’s tall neck, the boys look for likely competitors. After recruiting an elephant, lion, rhino, and gorilla, the children are surprised when a snake decides to join the race. Snake talks a big game and succeeds in intimidating all the other competitors: “He caused such a stir / For those who were entered / That fear was now focused / As fear would be centered.” But Joshua and Timmy are unimpressed by the snake’s boasts and refuse to be intimidated. When the snake takes off at the start, his tail in his mouth and rolling like a wheel, the boys treat his technique like a game, catching up and jumping through the snake’s hoop before passing him. The lesson Rogers presents—having positive thoughts and not letting a bully scare you away from doing your best—might be stronger if Joshua or Timmy had treated the snake like a threat, but their cheerful expressions in McCoy’s exuberant illustrations make their fearlessness seem merely like an admirable character trait. Rogers’ rhymes are uneven, varying in patterns throughout, including AAAA, ABAB, ABCB, and AABB. The verses sometimes meander, especially when describing the snake: “This master’s illusion / Had all of them worried / He played with their minds / And he never was hurried.” Jessica’s disappearance from most of the story (she does not win the race, though she is pictured as a competitor, and she never shows a reaction to the snake) may strike young readers—particularly girls—as odd. The illustrations, however, with the human-seeming animals, will definitely grab the attention of young readers and may strengthen the strained verses.
An upbeat story with a moral about believing in yourself accompanied by fantastic illustrations—but told in stilted verse.