A nice addition to the nature shelf.

GOOD TRICK, WALKING STICK

Stick insects have tricks that make them highly successful creatures.

Designed for reading aloud, Bestor’s two-level text provides an overview of a walking stick’s life. A simple, circular narrative begins in winter, with eggs hidden under the snow, and goes through spring hatching, a summer of community leaf-eating and predator evasion, and autumn egg laying (with or without fertilization); it ends with winter and spring again. Onomatopoeic phrases such as "Munch. Munch," "Drop, plop. Drop," and the titular refrain are printed in extra-large display type. Child readers are sometimes addressed directly in smaller-print paragraphs on each spread. These describe more complex events and use more specific language than the primary text: the way ants hide the eggs, mistaking them for seeds; the exoskeletons these insects shed (molt) as they grow; feet designed for climbing; and defense mechanisms, including camouflage, quaking, autotomy—the loss and replacement of an appendage—and even parthenogenesis. Though walking sticks are sold as exotic pets, the author helpfully suggests admiring them in the natural world instead. The stylish, probably computer-generated art resembles work done with cut paper; stylized images of the insects, the branches, leaves, berries, and flowers around them, and the ground below are set on a white background for each spread. Elements from these images make up the endpapers.

A nice addition to the nature shelf. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58536-943-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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