A delightful folk tale from a region that is not often represented in our literature.



A fluid retelling of “Why Is the Tip of the Ermine’s Tail Black,” a pourquoi tale from the far northeastern reaches of Siberia.

One bitterly cold winter, a hunter nurtures an ermine back to life after it has fallen down his chimney, and the ermine grows a thick white coat of fur. Later that winter, when the ermine thinks the hunter is away, it eats all the old man’s butter. Furious, the man grabs a hot poker and thrusts it at the tip of the ermine’s tail, turning it black. The story is engaging, with a clear lesson and a happy ending. Text and narration are available in English, Russian and Yakut, with different narrators for each language. The English translation is smooth and pleasant. Digital illustrations and simple animations add humor and context to the story. Unfortunately, the font (in all three languages) is terribly small (readers can simply hide the text altogether and just listen to the story). Although a suite of Yakut folk tales is planned for the future, this is the only tale included at the time of review, making for a slight disconnect between icon and story content at the moment.

A delightful folk tale from a region that is not often represented in our literature. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (iPad folk-tale app. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2014


Page Count: -

Publisher: Fivetronics

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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