An adept and impressive handling of a sensitive subject.

FOX

A CIRCLE OF LIFE STORY

The cycle of life in the natural world is explained using a fox as the subject.

In this thoughtful picture book, a red fox hunts and feeds her family of three cubs; as the cubs play-hunt, they grow into learning to hunt for real. Then the mother fox is hit and killed by a car. This aspect of the story is presented without anthropomorphic emotion: “Three cubs look around / sniff the ground, / hesitate… / then pad back home.” The story continues, focusing on the fox’s body and what is happening to it as it decomposes. Staying with unemotional science, the narrative tells how the decomposing body nourishes life, from the scavengers and microbes that feed on it to the nutrients it releases to the soil and air. In this way, readers come to understand that death and life are inextricably linked and that death is a catalyst for new life. The collage-style, full-color illustrations show the maturing cubs continuing to thrive, reassuring readers and reinforcing the circle-of-life theme. The illustrations vary presentations, alternating double-page spreads, spots, and full-page spreads. The images of the foxes are lively and delicate, while the forest world depicted creates an evocative setting. A thorough, scientific explanation of what happens to the physical body after death is presented at the book’s end. Members of a human family briefly illustrated have black hair and light beige skin.

An adept and impressive handling of a sensitive subject. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0692-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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