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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SKELETON HICCUPS

Who hasn’t shared the aggravation of a whole day’s worth of bone-rattling hiccups? Poor Skeleton wakes up with a deadly case that he can’t shake, and it’s up to his friend Ghost to think of something to scare them away. Cuyler (Stop, Drop, and Roll, 2001, etc.) cleverly brings readers through the ups and downs of Skeleton’s day, from shower to ball-playing. Home folk remedies (holding his breath, eating sugar) don’t seem to work, but Ghost applies a new perspective startling enough to unhinge listeners and Skeleton alike. While the concept is clever, it’s Schindler’s (How Santa Lost His Job, 2001, etc.) paintings, done with gouache, ink, and watercolor, that carry the day, showing Skeleton’s own unique problems—water pours out of his hollow eyes when he drinks it upside down, his teeth spin out of his head when he brushes them—that make a joke of the circumstances. Oversized spreads open the scene to read-aloud audiences, but hold intimate details for sharp eyes—monster slippers, sugar streaming through the hollow body. For all the hiccupping, this outing has a quiet feel not up to the standards of some of Cuyler’s earlier books, but the right audience will enjoy its fun. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-84770-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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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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