BIG, BAD AND A LITTLE BIT SCARY

POEMS THAT BITE BACK!

“WARNING!” says the jacket flap; “This book contains wild animals!” Indeed it does in a stunning collection of poems by first-rate poets that is enlivened by full-page electric-hued paintings sure to show up across a room as well as dazzle up close. The topic—scary animals—is dear to school-aged children, but appropriately, lest the book appear to demonize animals, the opening poem is John Gardner’s “Always Be Kind to Animals,” for “Animals have feelings too, / And furthermore they bite!” Healthy respect, coupled with fascination with the unknown, the unusual, the gross, and the dangerous, informs most of the poems. Dick King-Smith’s “If you fall into a river that’s full of Piranha, / They’ll strip off your flesh like you’d skin a banana” is accompanied by glowing yellow fish, toothy mouths open wide. Poets include Eve Merriam, Maxine Kumin, Ogden Nash (“if called by a panther, / don’t anther”), Russell Hoban, Mary Ann Hoberman, Hilaire Belloc, Karla Kuskin, Valerie Worth, D.H. Lawrence, William Jay Smith, and others. Animals include the viper, alligator, hawk, shark, lion, vulture, eel, octopus, barracuda, and the bat. Wild and wonderful. (Picture book/poetry. 5-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-03513-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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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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