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LOON

Though the book's two components coexist uneasily, each is notable, and children in loon country will be fascinated by such...

The life cycles of two baby loons are presented in this lyrical picture book.

One late June day, a gray chick pecks and pecks her way out of her large green-and-brown spotted egg. A short time later, she has a little brother. They stay in the nest for about a month, then are ready to test the waters, literally. Sometimes they can ride on a parent's back to rest and dry off. In summer, there are dangers on the water, such as people; the offspring learn to dive deep for fish like their parents. As fall turns to winter, the parents fly away, leaving the young to fend for themselves. They grow strong and take flight just before the lake water freezes, finding a new home on the ocean with a loose flock of others. It takes a few years, but eventually the gray feathers molt an are replaced by "checkered, striped, spotted / white and black." Now they are ready to become parents themselves and begin to listen for that distinct mating call. The book concludes with an informative essay about the loon, illustrated with depictions of five varieties, and suggestions for further reading. Reczuch's beautiful acrylic on-canvas paintings, 19 two-page spreads in all, themselves tell the story eloquently. Vande Griek's text is deft and minimal, yet, despite its free-verse form, still feels too prosaic, given the drama of the pictures.

Though the book's two components coexist uneasily, each is notable, and children in loon country will be fascinated by such a thorough exploration. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55498-077-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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