An uneven, though potentially engaging, offering.

ANCIENT ANIMALS

TERROR BIRD

Potentially high-interest nonfiction content is obscured by missed opportunities for collaboration between art and text in this early reader.

Although the text immediately establishes the temporal and physical setting (“This is South American fifteen million years ago”), ensuing pages fail to clarify the introduction of the book’s subject, a now-extinct predatory bird. A frontmatter note indicates “The terror bird featured in this book is Kelenken guillermoi, a seven-foot-tall predator that lived about fifteen million years ago,” but if readers miss this key notation, they may flounder as they read about the eponymous terror bird’s predatory ways. The text intersperses facts within imagined hunting scenes, but the art fails to make the most of the descriptions. For example, the fourth page of text tells readers that “There were many kinds of terror birds. The smallest was the size of an eagle. A large one could be the size of a basketball hoop.” The accompanying picture shows two prehistoric birds labeled Brontornis and Psilopterus, and although they contrast greatly in size, they are set against an entirely white page, so there is no indication of scale to match the text. A more successful spread compares the role of these top predators with those that exist today, such as sharks, wolves and tigers.

An uneven, though potentially engaging, offering. (resources) (Informational early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58089-398-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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