THE OWL AND THE LEMMING

This Arctic spin on a familiar folkloric theme, while uneven, offers a glimpse of a landscape too little seen in children’s...

Pride goeth before the fall. Or, in this case, the leap.

An Inuit folk tale is given a tiny update in this picture-book adaptation. Spring has arrived, and a young lemming’s thoughts turn to the tasty moss outside her burrow. Alas, no sooner has she started munching than an equally hungry snowy owl blocks her home’s entrance. The lemming must outwit the bird, but early efforts get nowhere. For example, asking the owl to simply spread its legs and redirect its gaze falls flat. (“No way! I am not stupid!” says the owl.) Next the lemming tries entreating the owl to wait for plumper prey. No go. Finally, she hits on the best solution, challenging the owl to a leaping contest. There’s a fine tradition of stories involving prey outwitting their predators. In this case, the lemming is remarkable for failing so miserably to trick her hunter before finally hitting on the best solution, and the owl is equally remarkable for its patience. While the dialogue is smart and snappy (this version of the story began life as a film), the interstitial narrative is less lively. Mixed-media art portrays both the lemming and the owl (to a lesser degree) as cartoonish figures. Fortunately background photographs of the Arctic tundra vistas more than make up for what these figures lack.

This Arctic spin on a familiar folkloric theme, while uneven, offers a glimpse of a landscape too little seen in children’s books. (Picture book/folklore. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-7722-7120-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Inhabit Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES, MR. BROWN?

Pedestrian.

Mr. Brown can’t help with farm chores because his shoes are missing—a common occurrence in his household and likely in many readers’ as well.

Children will be delighted that the titular Mr. Brown is in fact a child. After Mr. Brown looks in his closet and sorts through his other family members’ shoes with no luck, his father and his siblings help him search the farm. Eventually—after colorful pages that enable readers to spot footwear hiding—the family gives up on their hunt, and Mr. Brown asks to be carried around for the chores. He rides on his father’s shoulders as Papa gets his work done, as seen on a double-page spread of vignettes. The resolution is more of a lesson for the adult readers than for children, a saccharine moment where father and son express their joy that the missing shoes gave them the opportunity for togetherness—with advice for other parents to appreciate those fleeting moments themselves. Though the art is bright and cheerful, taking advantage of the setting, it occasionally is misaligned with the text (for example, the text states that Mr. Brown is wearing his favorite green shirt while the illustration is of a shirt with wide stripes of white and teal blue, which could confuse readers at the point where they’re trying to figure out which family member is Mr. Brown). The family is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Pedestrian. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-5460-0389-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: WorthyKids/Ideals

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

TOYS GALORE

Clever verse coupled with bold primary-colored images is sure to attract and hone the attention of fun-seeking children...

A fizzy yet revealing romp through the toy world.

Though of standard picture-book size, Stein and illustrator Staake’s latest collaboration (Bugs Galore, 2012, etc.) presents a sweeping compendium of diversions for the young. From fairies and gnomes, race cars and jacks, tin cans and socks, to pots ’n’ pans and a cardboard box, Stein combs the toy kingdom for equally thrilling sources of fun. These light, tightly rhymed quatrains focus nicely on the functions characterizing various objects, such as “Floaty, bubbly, / while-you-wash toys” or “Sharing-secrets- / with-tin-cans toys,” rather than flatly stating their names. Such ambiguity at once offers Staake free artistic rein to depict copious items capable of performing those tasks and provides pre-readers ample freedom to draw from the experiences of their own toy chests as they scan Staake’s vibrant spreads brimming with chunky, digitally rendered objects and children at play. The sense of community and sharing suggested by most of the spreads contributes well to Stein’s ultimate theme, which he frames by asking: “But which toy is / the best toy ever? / The one most fun? / Most cool and clever?” Faced with three concluding pages filled with all sorts of indoor and outside toys to choose from, youngsters may be shocked to learn, on turning to the final spread, that the greatest one of all—“a toy SENSATION!”—proves to be “[y]our very own / imagination.”

Clever verse coupled with bold primary-colored images is sure to attract and hone the attention of fun-seeking children everywhere. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6254-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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