Budding naturalists, even younger ones, can easily find more dependable and systematic guides to their backyard biota.


Digital tweaks add interactive features to this edition of an insect ABC (originally packaged in 2007 as a book/CD set).

The 26 alphabetically arranged entrants include such usual suspects as the Ladybug and Praying mantis, along with the less-familiar likes of the Velvet ant and Olive fruit fly. Each gets a close-up painted portrait done in an arbitrary range of styles from photorealism to crayon sketch, a perfunctory rhymed caption—“The inchworm likes to crawl around / and eat leaves every day…”—and, with a tap on the highlighted name, a boxed snippet of explanation or further detail. A menu can be opened on any screen that allows skipping, starting over and replacing the optional audio reading with a self-recording. Problems abound. The Japanese beetle illustrated is either a rare variety or some other sort of beetle. Along with failing to mention that the Inchworm is a caterpillar or that it and the other three larvae included in the alphabetical roster will look different as adults, the author incorrectly claims that Unicorn caterpillars lay eggs. Her observation that a sawfly (Xyelidae) is “like a wasp but not the same” is both unexplained in the verse and contradicted in the accompanying note. She also characterizes collecting Fireflies in a jar as a “fun activity” but neglects to recommend letting them go afterward.

Budding naturalists, even younger ones, can easily find more dependable and systematic guides to their backyard biota. (iPad informational app. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2014


Page Count: -

Publisher: Oceanhouse Media

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 35

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

Did you like this book?