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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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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Clever verse coupled with bold primary-colored images is sure to attract and hone the attention of fun-seeking children...


A fizzy yet revealing romp through the toy world.

Though of standard picture-book size, Stein and illustrator Staake’s latest collaboration (Bugs Galore, 2012, etc.) presents a sweeping compendium of diversions for the young. From fairies and gnomes, race cars and jacks, tin cans and socks, to pots ’n’ pans and a cardboard box, Stein combs the toy kingdom for equally thrilling sources of fun. These light, tightly rhymed quatrains focus nicely on the functions characterizing various objects, such as “Floaty, bubbly, / while-you-wash toys” or “Sharing-secrets- / with-tin-cans toys,” rather than flatly stating their names. Such ambiguity at once offers Staake free artistic rein to depict copious items capable of performing those tasks and provides pre-readers ample freedom to draw from the experiences of their own toy chests as they scan Staake’s vibrant spreads brimming with chunky, digitally rendered objects and children at play. The sense of community and sharing suggested by most of the spreads contributes well to Stein’s ultimate theme, which he frames by asking: “But which toy is / the best toy ever? / The one most fun? / Most cool and clever?” Faced with three concluding pages filled with all sorts of indoor and outside toys to choose from, youngsters may be shocked to learn, on turning to the final spread, that the greatest one of all—“a toy SENSATION!”—proves to be “[y]our very own / imagination.”

Clever verse coupled with bold primary-colored images is sure to attract and hone the attention of fun-seeking children everywhere. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6254-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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