Though thoughtful, thought-provoking, and filled with engaging language, this allegorical tale may struggle to find an...


A solitary turtle creates a community atop his shell.

According to the lyrical text, “Turtle lived in a part of the world as empty as a bird’s nest in December.” The accompanying double-page illustration, created in acrylic, paper, and pencil collage, shows a small gray planet, about 10 times larger than the turtle perched on it, floating in a dark sky surrounded by a sea of stars. With only his shadow to talk to, Turtle is lonely. He spends most of his time inside his shell, dreaming of a happier life. Having pictured a “better home,” he resolves to build it. Across several pages, Turtle (somewhat disconcertingly) slips out of his shell to paint, construct, and expand an elaborate environment on it. Blocky shapes, occasional splashes of vivid color, and unusual juxtapositions create a dreamlike quality that suits the fanciful premise. As he rests from his labors, new residents appear. “A painter, a sailor, and a ballerina came first.” These anthropomorphic animals are followed by an array of others representing an eclectic variety of occupations. A gatefold that requires a 90-degree turn of the book shows Turtle’s delight when he wakes to discover the town atop his shell is inhabited, but the resolution may seem less than satisfying since the turtle and the new arrivals don’t truly interact.

Though thoughtful, thought-provoking, and filled with engaging language, this allegorical tale may struggle to find an appreciative audience. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-74982-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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