A fresh, winning blend of natural science, simple storyline, tenderness, and perseverance.

READ REVIEW

THIRSTY, THIRSTY ELEPHANTS

As drought dries up the usual sources of water for elephants in Tanzania, Little Calf’s grandmother relies on her memory to lead the elephants to a new source.

“It’s a hot, dry day in Tanzania. Grandma elephant stops munching leaves. Thirsty, she lifts her trunk high and takes a deep SNIFF! Grandma smells water in the distance and sets off.” The accessible, fact-packed language continues, as does the gentle humor provided by Little Calf, who is still learning how to effectively use her trunk. The story is not without suspense, as place after place offers little or no water to the herd that follows Grandma. Little Calf even collapses at one point, but her mother revives her quickly and cleverly, keeping her shaded after that. Colorful, mixed-media illustrations are a perfect match to the thoughtful text. Details range from the parched ground to tropical birds; from distant gazelles to the up-close, leathery skin of elephants in many positions and moods. According to the author’s note, the tale is based on a hypothesis that the reason one particular elephant herd managed so well during a 1994 drought rested squarely on their elderly leader. She apparently used her childhood memories of surviving an earlier drought to lead her herd to that same, still-available watering hole. Further elephant facts and resources round out the backmatter.

A fresh, winning blend of natural science, simple storyline, tenderness, and perseverance. (Informational picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58089-634-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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