Fine for a metafictive read-aloud but not so great as science.


The world’s ugliest animal speaks up.

In the tradition of Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky's Moose and David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken, Blobfish takes over a book about deep-sea creatures, inserting itself into every page. A straightforward text about deep-sea life, a sentence or two set on a background of photographs, is interrupted on every double-page spread by an impatient cartoon blobfish and its own commentary. When its photograph finally appears, the text notes that it “was once voted the world’s ugliest.” Naturally, its feelings are hurt. At this point, the other animals—viperfish, jellyfish, jewel squid, anglerfish, blenny fish, giant spider crab, and northern stoplight loosejaw—acquire speech bubbles too, banding together to make their own crayoned page with a message of support. The humor is grand, the informational value modest. Olien has juxtaposed creatures that may live far apart in real life. On a diagram of ocean zones (with only English measurements), Blobfish points to the 13,000-foot line between the bathypelagic and abyssopelagic zone to show where he lives “in the deep, deep part”; since there is yet another zone below 20,000 feet, readers will wonder exactly what “deep, deep” means. Moreover, in truth, blobfish seem to live around 2,000-4,000 feet down. They also probably look quite different at their proper depth; the photo in the book was taken at the surface. Further facts and suggestions for websites to explore are added in the backmatter.

Fine for a metafictive read-aloud but not so great as science. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-239415-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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Hee haw.

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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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.


Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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