An engaging, informative introduction.

BIRD COUNT

A young citizen scientist helps count birds for the Christmas Bird Count, a hemispherewide event run by the National Audubon Society.

On a snowy winter morning, Ava and her mother bundle up to spend their day driving and walking around through varying habitats to count birds in the area designated to them by their local organizer. This year, Ava’s old enough to take the tally, which, in a clever design feature, runs along the side of each spread. Count guidelines are smoothly worked into Richmond’s narrative: Count every bird you see or hear; make sure at least two people see or hear it; don’t count any bird more than once. She even explains how a tally is marked. The birds, familiar to residents of eastern and central North America, are faithfully shown in context in Coleman’s digital paintings. Ava and her mother have light brown skin, and Ava’s hair is lighter and fluffier than her mother’s straight, black locks; team leader Big Al presents white. The author builds suspense by including Ava’s hope to see a raven again—a bird she saw two years ago but not on last year’s count. The story includes common frustrations: birds only one person sees and birds that were probably counted already. Their final tally—24 species, from great horned owl in the early morning to the longed-for raven at dusk—is quite respectable, and more about each featured species appears in the backmatter.

An engaging, informative introduction. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-56145-954-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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