A well-intentioned effort that fails to take flight.

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JABBER THE STELLER'S JAY

The first year in the life of a Steller’s jay is recounted, with a focus on the Southwest ponderosa pine forest and other animals that live there.

Jabber is one of four baby birds born in the, apparently, spring, and the story follows her development as she grows feathers, learns to fly, and hunts for her own food. Jabber is shown in relation to several other birds and to animals such as a chipmunk, a mountain lion, and a porcupine. By the following spring, Jabber is fully mature, building a nest with her mate in preparation for laying her own eggs. The story is rather sedate, doing its best to derive dramatic tension from the difficulties of finding food and protection from other birds and animals. Three final pages provide information about the other birds and animals encountered by Jabber. A full page of dedications and acknowledgments precedes the text, space readers may feel might have been better used to include more pertinent facts about Steller’s jays, such as the origin of the name, distinction from more common blue jays, habitat location, and interesting characteristics such as their ability to mimic the vocalizations of other birds. Illustrations in colored pencil provide appealing backgrounds of the forest environment, but many views of the birds and animals are static and fail to depict interesting actions described in the text.

A well-intentioned effort that fails to take flight. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943328-89-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Hee haw.

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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