Bravo for a courageous boy’s achievement.


A boy defies his father’s warning and rescues a whale tangled in their sole fishing net.

The story opens with two clear viewpoints. Papa is distressed their only source of income is in jeopardy; Abelardo is very concerned for the whale’s survival. He remembers a time when he had been trapped in a net and almost drowned before his father saved him. Papa leaves to borrow another net, and Abelardo, alone on the beach, takes their outboard-equipped panga out to the ensnared whale, dives in, and bravely works with a small knife to cut the tough plastic netting, finally freeing the animal. The boy’s daring determination and his emotional and physical struggles are evident in the succinct, first-person narrative, which builds urgency, fear, and suspense to a one-word crescendo—“…BREATHE!”—when Abelardo and whale must surface to do so. Realistic pen-and-ink–and-acrylic paintings alternate between sunny, glimmering sea and beach scenes and dark underwater scenes done in aquas and grays. The drama is vividly shown, paralleling the boy’s passion with the whale’s defeated resignation in a double-page image of the boy’s grim face next to and as large as the gray whale’s sad eye. The inspiring, humane adventure joyfully concludes with Gerstein’s pinnacle scenes of the whale breaching joyfully. A Latin American coastal setting is indicated with naming conventions; Abelardo and his father have brown skin and straight, black hair.

Bravo for a courageous boy’s achievement. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-505-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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