Amusing, colorful illustrations, interesting information, and a high-interest theme enliven a pedestrian text.



Repetitive verses count down from five to none as playful mermaids each chase after a different sea creature in the five named bodies that make up the global ocean.

The book starts: “Five little mermaids / Went swimming in the sea / to the Atlantic Ocean / To see what they could see. / Maria joined a school of fish / And swam away carefree. Whoosh! / Now there were….” Maria has curly brown hair and freckles and light skin. Makaiya has long brown hair and light brown skin and meets a turtle in the Indian Ocean. Ming, with straight black hair and what are meant to be Asian features, “high-fived a penguin” in the Southern Ocean. Marley, with bright curly red hair, a ruddy complexion, and big red glasses, follows a giant squid in the Pacific Ocean. Finally, Maya, with dark brown skin and dark hair in Afro puffs, swims after an orange lion’s mane jellyfish, a showy species surprisingly found in the Arctic Ocean. After a double-page spread that depicts an underwater castle, coral, sea anemones, fish, and other sea creatures, a page turn reveals all kinds of merfolk having a party to welcome the five after their travels. Coral-reef–bright illustrations are vivid and fanciful, with comical mermaids cavorting in the sea, and varied compositions help sustain interest, with the giant squid starring in one of the most dramatic spreads. Following the story, three spreads detail information about the folklore of merpeople, the oceans (with generalized location maps), and the five creatures highlighted and the depths to which they can swim. The music for the undistinguished verses is included, as is a CD with audio and video (not seen).

Amusing, colorful illustrations, interesting information, and a high-interest theme enliven a pedestrian text. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78285-831-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Barefoot

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Hee haw.

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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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Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the...


Rhymed couplets convey the story of a girl who likes to build things but is shy about it. Neither the poetry nor Rosie’s projects always work well.

Rosie picks up trash and oddments where she finds them, stashing them in her attic room to work on at night. Once, she made a hat for her favorite zookeeper uncle to keep pythons away, and he laughed so hard that she never made anything publicly again. But when her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit and reminds Rosie of her own past building airplanes, she expresses her regret that she still has not had the chance to fly. Great-great-aunt Rose is visibly modeled on Rosie the Riveter, the iconic, red-bandanna–wearing poster woman from World War II. Rosie decides to build a flying machine and does so (it’s a heli-o-cheese-copter), but it fails. She’s just about to swear off making stuff forever when Aunt Rose congratulates her on her failure; now she can go on to try again. Rosie wears her hair swooped over one eye (just like great-great-aunt Rose), and other figures have exaggerated hairdos, tiny feet and elongated or greatly rounded bodies. The detritus of Rosie’s collections is fascinating, from broken dolls and stuffed animals to nails, tools, pencils, old lamps and possibly an erector set. And cheddar-cheese spray.

Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the right place. (historical note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0845-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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