PROFESSOR AESOP’S THE CROW AND THE PITCHER

Busy design seeks to illustrate Aesop’s fable of the crow and the pitcher, with an emphasis on the scientific method—hence, presumably, the “Professor” Aesop of the title. The story is told straightforwardly and without linguistic elaboration: the thirsty crow finds a pitcher of water; the water level being too low for his beak to reach, he uses the principle of water displacement to raise the level of the water with a series of pebbles until he is able to drink. With a heavy reliance on digital technique, newcomer Brown’s full-bleed, mixed-media illustrations add what are probably meant to be clever touches: a thermometer measuring the “ambient temperature” (a term that goes unexplained), a Thirst-o-meter, a determination scale, and a pebble indicator are added one by one as the crow works through his solution. Blueprint diagrams illustrate both the essential problem and the solution, and an X-ray shows the raising of the water level in process. The moral—“Necessity + Perseverance (that’s good old hard work) = Invention”—precedes a busy and confusing double-paged spread explanation of “the scientific method according to crow.” The notion of introducing children to the scientific method is praiseworthy, but this attempt to illustrate it falls victim to its own cuteness. While the various scales at the sides of the page are entertaining, they add little to the mission of the narrative, instead serving to distract the reader from the simple elegance of the crow’s solution. The illustrations are bright and appealing, but in the end they are more obfuscatory than illustrative. Children are natural scientists; they do not need these extraneous bells and whistles to encourage exploration. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58246-087-6

Page Count: 30

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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UNICORN WINGS

The can’t-miss subject of this Step into Reading series entry—a unicorn with a magic horn who also longs for wings—trumps its text, which is dry even by easy-reader standards. A boy unicorn, whose horn has healing powers, reveals his wish to a butterfly in a castle garden, a bluebird in the forest and a snowy white swan in a pond. Falling asleep at the edge of the sea, the unicorn is visited by a winged white mare. He heals her broken wing and she flies away. After sadly invoking his wish once more, he sees his reflection: “He had big white wings!” He flies off after the mare, because he “wanted to say, ‘Thank you.’ ” Perfectly suiting this confection, Silin-Palmer’s pictures teem with the mass market–fueled iconography of what little girls are (ostensibly) made of: rainbows, flowers, twinkly stars and, of course, manes down to there. (Easy reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83117-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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