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

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LOON

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 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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