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

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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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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Chilling in the best ways.

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CREEPY CRAYON!

From the Creepy Tales! series

When a young rabbit who’s struggling in school finds a helpful crayon, everything is suddenly perfect—until it isn’t.

Jasper is flunking everything except art and is desperate for help when he finds the crayon. “Purple. Pointy…perfect”—and alive. When Jasper watches TV instead of studying, he misspells every word on his spelling test, but the crayon seems to know the answers, and when he uses the crayon to write, he can spell them all. When he faces a math quiz after skipping his homework, the crayon aces it for him. Jasper is only a little creeped out until the crayon changes his art—the one area where Jasper excels—into something better. As guilt-ridden Jasper receives accolade after accolade for grades and work that aren’t his, the crayon becomes more and more possessive of Jasper’s attention and affection, and it is only when Jasper cannot take it anymore that he discovers just what he’s gotten himself into. Reynolds’ text might as well be a Rod Serling monologue for its perfectly paced foreboding and unsettling tension, both gentled by lightly ominous humor. Brown goes all in to match with a grayscale palette for everything but the purple crayon—a callback to black-and-white sci-fi thrillers as much as a visual cue for nascent horror readers. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Chilling in the best ways. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6588-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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