A SOUTH AFRICAN NIGHT

PLB 0-688-11390-7 South Africa by day is a bustling city with tall buildings, teeming crowds, and busy markets; but at night the animals reign. After showing people in Johannesburg and a toddler asleep in her bed, Isadora (Isadora Dances, p. 113, etc.) moves viewers to Kruger National Park. The black mamba snake raises its head for a meal, lions and hungry leopards roam and hunt, and the peaceful elephant and her young drink at a water hole beneath a starry sky. As the sun rises, the animals slumber and the people again take to the streets. This juxtaposition of viewpoints will help children understand some of the contrasts of contemporary Africa. The illustrations of busy, daytime Johannesburg are colorful and full of detail, while scenes at the animal park are murky, conveying both a sense of the shadowy unknown and the vast open spaces. Ghost-like lionesses move in a smoky landscape of gray and tan where there is no visible demarcation between ground and sky. An astonishing sunrise scene finds the animals settling down under a wide orange sky, while the city market comes alive with flower-sellers and shoppers, ready for a new day. Children will be fascinated by this co-existence—a peaceable kingdom of sorts, with every rotation of the earth. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-688-11389-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

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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