The pictures are a weak link, but younger readers and listeners will happily take this quick dive into the sea of random...



From the Did You Know? series

Smooth segues provide the cement for this high-wattage, if less-than-carefully illustrated, set of animal facts.

Oswald’s cartoon images of popeyed, well-caffeinated creatures crank up the visual energy to frantic levels. Unfortunately, at the outset, they contradict the author’s correct observation that hippos’ noses are placed on the tops of their heads. In another misstep, both illustration and a thought balloon misleadingly suggest that bats can recognize a passing 747 with echolocation (their range is much, much smaller). For the most part, though, DiSiena and Eliot’s revelations are both accurate and just as detailed as they need to be to keep and hold attention. They glide from the hippo’s titular lack of buoyancy (they walk along river bottoms) to the surprising fleetness of sea turtles. From there, it’s on to jellyfish, which don’t actively swim but do flash with bioluminescence—just like fireflies. So it goes, until the parade of facts circles neatly back around to blue whales (“actually the largest animals that have ever lived”) and a closing assurance that “unlike hippos…blue whales sure can SWIM!” Though the authors supply no supportive references or leads to further information, they do tuck in an additional “Fun Fact” about each of the 14 animals at the end. A companion, Chickens Don’t Fly and Other Fun Facts, publishes simultaneously.

The pictures are a weak link, but younger readers and listeners will happily take this quick dive into the sea of random knowledge. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9352-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


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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