As in other books by the author, big issues are presented in an accessible manner and subtly enough that adults can guide...

NANUK THE ICE BEAR

The story of a female polar bear provides an overview of the species’ life cycle and includes the mention of environmental changes that threaten their existence.

Clear, soft illustrations in Winter’s characteristic style accompany her straightforward text. She starts with several pages that describe the Arctic landscape, offering a sense of place and placement. Similarly simple sentences cover feeding, mating (“a dance of courtship”), and the raising of cubs. A touch of sentiment appears in the forlorn expression on Nanuk’s face when her young are old enough to strike out on their own, but overall both narrative and pictures focus on conveying an accurate picture of typical experiences and behaviors. Illustrations are centered on each page, bordered in white, while behind them a rising sea changes color and height in successive spreads, eventually engulfing the white space entirely. In the final pages the author mentions the changes that have been implied throughout by this changing background. Although she softens the grim prospect by ending with the positive future envisioned in Nanuk’s dreams, the reality, however lightly limned, ultimately gives the story a melancholy tone.

As in other books by the author, big issues are presented in an accessible manner and subtly enough that adults can guide children to an age-appropriate understanding of them. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4667-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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