I AM ELEPHANT

Abundant, stylized watercolor drawings of elephants are accompanied by a sparse text in which an elephant narrator presents scattered information about both African and Asian elephants.

The book itself is well crafted, with an appealing layout on sturdy, high-quality, glossy white paper. The large, sans-serif print stands out expertly, and the complementary art is reproduced in colorful, detailed glory. This attention to production and the limited number of poetically arranged words—none of which are scientific—make the book appear to be a young child’s introduction to a representative of a magnificent, endangered species. Indeed, most of its initial text and art support this idea. For example: “Someday, I will be like my mother and grandmother—slow-motion majesty.” Nice, too, to learn the Greek derivation of elephant and to have passages citing positive references to the animals from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. However, the penultimate and final double-page spreads take a deeper, darker turn in both text and art. Instead of a sweet ending to lull children into bedtime, it is the stuff of nightmares. There are other, better books that will encourage children’s interest in elephant conservation, including Elephants Walk Together, by Cheryl Lawton Malone and illustrated by Bistra Masseva (2017), and Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants, by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck (2017), for the youngest, and The Elephant, by Jenni Desmond (2018), for slightly older readers.

Lyrical and disturbing. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-56846-378-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones.

TRUMAN

A tiny tortoise discovers just how brave he is when his girl unexpectedly takes a bus headed away from home.

Truman, like his girl, Sarah, is quiet, “peaceful and pensive,” unlike the busy, noisy city outside their building’s window. In just the first few spreads, Reidy and Cummins manage to capture the close relationship between the girl and her pet, so it’s understandable that Truman should worry when he adds up the day’s mysterious clues: a big backpack, a large banana, a bow in Sarah’s hair, extra green beans in Truman’s dish, and, especially, Sarah boarding the No. 11 bus. He’s so worried that he decides to go after her, a daunting feat for a tortoise the size of a small doughnut. Cummins’ gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digital illustrations marvelously convey both the big picture of Truman’s navigation of the house and his tortoise’s-eye view of things. And the ending, when Sarah arrives home in time to scoop him up before he slips under the front door, stuttering her amazement at his brave feats, is just right. Sarah and her mother have pale skin and straight, black hair; other city dwellers are diverse. Peaceful and pensive like Truman himself, this book charms; there’s just something uplifting and wonderful about the whole package.

Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1664-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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