Jenkins, whose art can be seen in his own and others’ books on natural themes, here provides an introduction to the ways animals communicate, with brief text and full-color torn- and cut-paper collages. Jenkins notes: “Animals send messages with sounds, visual signals, and touch. They use odors and chemical messages, create vibrations in the ground, or even light up to communicate with others of their kind.” Handsome animal collages show some animals full-figure and others in close-up, including bats, wolves, cats, klipspringer (a kind of antelope), blue-footed boobies, and whales. The crushed-paper collages—the illustrator’s trademark—are appealing, but colors in this title are subdued, and the layouts frequently place disparate animals on the left and right page, making this title less useful for display. For example, the left panel shows two blue-footed boobies in a mating dance, while the right page shows an orb-web spider. Most successful are those layouts that capture the act of communicating, for example the two wolves, one cowering and submissive as the other snarls, or the cat rubbing up against a person’s pant leg. For the most part, though, communication is hard to show. A humpback whale swims, but how do we know it’s singing? The viewer can’t see the elephant’s rumbling stomach or the dolphin’s whistling. While the title will provide a first look at animal communication, it is not as successful as Jenkins’s previous efforts. (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-03376-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...


A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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