A helpful addition to the nature shelf, especially for its uncommon focus on urban birds.

READ REVIEW

AS THE CROW FLIES

Rhyming couplets celebrate the abilities and ubiquity of crows and the noisy crowds of a city winter roost.

Observations of crows in Troy, N.Y., contributed to this story and pictures by a husband-and-wife team. In the first half of the narrative, Keenan describes individual crow behavior: stealing food from pigeons, dogs, and people; splatting on windshields; tracking dirt on clean laundry. In the second, she observes them in large winter groups: cavorting in the air and perching in large numbers. “We cause such / a mighty ruckus, / there’s no chance / you’ll overlook us.” The rhymes work, but the regular iambic beat may make this difficult to read aloud without sounding singsong. This is the first picture book for Duggan, an experienced nature painter. His realistic illustrations, which look like pastels and pencil, vary in size and perspective. Readers see crows close-up on the ground, in the air and, from above, flying high over the city across the double-page spread. Panels in series show a crow waiting for the green light to cross and peck at roadkill. In one particularly effective illustration, a close-up crow pokes his beak around a panel frame. “We’ve got our bird’s eye trained on you.”

A helpful addition to the nature shelf, especially for its uncommon focus on urban birds. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-62156-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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