An unusual partnership in the natural world that should appeal to young animal lovers.

THE CROCODILE BIRD

If you think a bird and a crocodile can’t get along, think again.

Meet the Egyptian plover—the “crocodile bird”—who shares a home along the River Nile with the mighty croc. Creatures that drink from the river flee the fearsome reptile in terror, but not so the plover. Not only does this bird fearlessly stand up to its scaly neighbor; it actually stands in it—inside its mouth, that is. The plover performs a service with a twofold purpose: The bird picks out juicy food bits lodged between the crocodile’s razor-sharp teeth—remainders of its previous meals. This helps the mighty beast avoid tooth decay while the bird ekes out a tasty meal from the morsels. Numerous spreads featuring dramatic close-ups of the crocodile’s gaping, toothy jaws and the gray, white, and black avian dental hygienist unflinchingly doing its work will fascinate young readers as they learn about an unfamiliar creature and a remarkable symbiotic relationship. The informative text is rendered via jaunty four-line rhyming verses that generally read and scan well. The illustrations’ palette is limited to shades of browns, grays, greens, and black and white, focusing on the crocodile and its helpful companion. The zebras, elephant, and wildebeests depicted in the opening spread suggest the African setting but aren’t actually found in Egypt.

An unusual partnership in the natural world that should appeal to young animal lovers. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-76036-104-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Bruce Goldstone’s Awesome Autumn (2012) is still the gold standard.

HELLO AUTUMN!

Rotner follows Hello Spring (2017) with this salute to the fall season.

Name a change seen in northern climes in fall, and Rotner likely covers it here, from plants, trees, and animals to the food we harvest: seeds are spread, the days grow shorter and cooler, the leaves change and fall (and are raked up and jumped in), some animals migrate, and many families celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. As in the previous book, the photographs (presented in a variety of sizes and layouts, all clean) are the stars here, displaying both the myriad changes of the season and a multicultural array of children enjoying the outdoors in fall. These are set against white backgrounds that make the reddish-orange print pop. The text itself uses short sentences and some solid vocabulary (though “deep sleep” is used instead of “hibernate”) to teach readers the markers of autumn, though in the quest for simplicity, Rotner sacrifices some truth. In several cases, the addition of just a few words would have made the following oversimplified statements reflect reality: “Birds grow more feathers”; “Cranberries float and turn red.” Also, Rotner includes the statement “Bees store extra honey in their hives” on a page about animals going into deep sleep, implying that honeybees hibernate, which is false.

Bruce Goldstone’s Awesome Autumn (2012) is still the gold standard. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3869-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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