REPTILES ARE MY LIFE

Non-stereotypical hobbies and sprightly writing keep this routine tale of a friendship’s collapse and regrouping afloat—but barely. Insect-lover Amanda and Maggie, mad for reptiles, are as close as “two bugs in a rug, two crocs on a rock,” until new classmate Emily, another reptile-phile, shoulders in. Suddenly Amanda’s out in the cold, watching Maggie and Emily bond and seeing her own overtures to join in ignored or scorned. Only when Amanda steps up to save the “Snake Sisters” from a reprimand by explaining to a teacher that they weren’t sticking their tongues out to be rude does the ice suddenly melt, and without further ado the trio becomes “three bugs on a rug, three crocs on a rock.” The plot’s not going to sell many readers, nor will the art; though he catches a guilty look on Maggie’s face once, by and large Johnson depicts a set of indistinctly drawn, stiff-faced children walking through a series of conventional school and playground scenes. The children do impart snippets of fact about the creatures to which they’re devoted, but the brio and good humor of Insects Are My Life (1995) is missing from this follow-up. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-29306-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS AND STILL STANDING

Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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