Entertaining holiday fare that pays homage to spending time with someone special.


Porcupine is a stickler for romance.

On Valentine’s Day, well-meaning Porcupine pokes various animal pals with quills, à la mythic Cupid striking the lovelorn with arrows. Unsurprisingly, his efforts at “fanning the flames of love” arouse angry, pained yelps. A bear huffily scolds Porcupine, giving him an idea: He secretly scrawls and posts a sign announcing a meeting in the forest, at which his pals gather to voice their disgruntlement. Porcupine, perched on a tree limb and dangling paper hearts above the assemblage, observes covertly and listens in on the proceedings with delight. He notes that he’s successfully stage-managed the perfect Valentine’s Day scene: The complainers all pair off in sympathy with each other, walk away happily, then engage in enjoyable activities together. However, this wouldn’t be an entirely happy Valentine’s Day story if the protagonist didn’t find a love connection of his own—cue the sweet twist at the end. This endearing, albeit predictable, holiday tale blends simple, expressive humor with warmth and sweetness. Young readers will giggle at the gentle figurative as well as metaphoric jabs that love, according to Porcupine, may entail. Colorful line illustrations capably evoke the setting as well as characters’ lively personalities. Porcupine and companion sport eyeglasses while some characters wear apparel; a bear carries a cane. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50.4% of actual size.)

Entertaining holiday fare that pays homage to spending time with someone special. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8101-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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. 29, 2018

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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. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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