WILD AND SWAMPY

“Every mammal sighting in a swamp is a surprise,” notes Arnosky as he takes the reader and viewer exploring. The well-known science author/illustrator once again proves himself a helpful wildlife guide. In similar adventures, with the help of his alter ego, Crinkleroot, Arnosky has introduced birds, mammals, trees, butterflies, snakes, and a host of other wildlife. Here, he combines pen-and-ink sketches from his travel journal, and more elaborate full-color acrylic paintings to show the reader and viewer the swamp as he sees it. The brief text boxes embedded in the paintings engage the reader and captures the moment, pointing out how a snake bird swims underwater to spear fish, or how the mangrove crab climbs high into the mangrove tree to escape predators. The paintings, often with unusual perspectives, invite the viewer to experience the swamp along with the artist. For example, one double-page layout presents on the center fold the smooth gray trunk of an enormous tree, rising from the mirrored surface of the swamp, from one side pokes the head of a white heron, the rest of the bird is hidden from view except for one stilt-like brown leg and a fringe of white tail feathers. Another painting has the viewer eyeball to eyeball with a huge gray-green alligator. His palette includes some paintings set in the murky twilight; others capture an unreal orchid-pink dusk, or an orange-gold sunset, with wildlife a near black shadow against the orange sky and water. A first look at an unusual habitat and some of its inhabitants. (Nonfiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-17119-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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