A subtle cry for environmental activism in an enticing package.

SEA BEAR

A JOURNEY FOR SURVIVAL

In poetic prose, a polar bear reveals her dependency on the cycle of Arctic seasons.

The artwork is strikingly beautiful, with a palette that gives equal glory to such natural wonders as starry night skies, ocean depths, and the aurora borealis. The author/illustrator’s background in scientific illustration serves the book well; the bear staring directly at readers early on has glistening eyes and a nose that surely will smudge the opposite page. Renderings of Arctic habitats and their denizens are equally impressive. The text also excels. Complementing its enchanting rhythm, the text includes some enjoyable alliteration (“a weary raft of wary walruses”). The bear begins her story by telling readers that polar bears are patient animals and that she has learned patience from her mother. This sliver of anthropomorphism cleverly engages readers with this particular bear while giving a basic, scientific account of one year in a female polar bear’s life. The facts are fascinating. Polar bears apparently spend their lives alternately: gorging on seals and ambling on sea ice, then paddling toward terra firma during the annual ice melt, and then nearly starving while on land. The females move further inland to birth their cubs, and the cycle resumes as the ice rebuilds. “I will teach the sea’s rhythm to my cubs and whisper to them in the dark.”

A subtle cry for environmental activism in an enticing package. (endnotes) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-279128-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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