Gertie’s heartwarming tale delights and distracts today as it did in 1945.

War-worried Midwesterners rally round an imperiled fowl family.

By choosing to nest in an exceptionally risky public spot—far above the dirty Milwaukee River—darling Gertie offers a perfect distraction to humans in the last anxious days of World War II. Protective heroes—bridge tenders who rescue the mallard and her six cute ducklings in bad weather—ensure a happy ending: After a brief period on display in a department-store window, Gertie and her family are released into a nearby park. From the first high duck’s-eye view, we are drawn into her story through careful, sepia-toned illustrations that seem lifted out of an old scrapbook. Everyone dresses soberly; quotes from people are sourced. An occasional brown face can be seen in the crowds, but most are light-skinned. Varied perspectives, including close-ups of Gertie, atmospheric changing weather, and rich background details, pique interest. Strong backmatter, with archival photos, provides historical background, focusing first on the role of women and children in the war effort and then on the extraordinary efforts of Milwaukee officials and residents to save and celebrate Gertie and her offspring. Like Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings (1941), this is a nonanthropomorphized animal story featuring caring humans. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Gertie’s heartwarming tale delights and distracts today as it did in 1945. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781534111714

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022


A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023


From the Over and Under series

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature.

In a new entry in the Over and Under series, a paddleboarder glimpses humpback whales leaping, floats over a populous kelp forest, and explores life on a beach and in a tide pool.

In this tale inspired by Messner’s experiences in Monterey Bay in California, a young tan-skinned narrator, along with their light-skinned mom and tan-skinned dad, observes in quiet, lyrical language sights and sounds above and below the sea’s serene surface. Switching perspectives and angles of view and often leaving the family’s red paddleboards just tiny dots bobbing on distant swells, Neal’s broad seascapes depict in precise detail bat stars and anchovies, kelp bass, and sea otters going about their business amid rocky formations and the swaying fronds of kelp…and, further out, graceful moon jellies and—thrillingly—massive whales in open waters beneath gliding pelicans and other shorebirds. After returning to the beach at day’s end to search for shells and to spot anemones and decorator crabs, the child ends with nighttime dreams of stars in the sky meeting stars in the sea. Appended nature notes on kelp and 21 other types of sealife fill in details about patterns and relationships in this rich ecosystem. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

More thoughtful, sometimes exhilarating encounters with nature. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-79720-347-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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