THE WORM FAMILY

A well-intentioned episode derailed by illustrations that are, to say the least, problematic. Johnston lays out her theme upfront—“Rejoice in who you are. Rejoice in who everyone else is!”—then develops it in lively prose, laced with rhymes and partial rhymes, by following an extended family of worms whose efforts to find a home are stymied by violent receptions from a succession of non-worm neighbors. At last, to a chorus of “We are Worms and we are proud! We are long and we are LOUD!,” they raise their chins (“ ‘We don’t have chins,’ said Blanche. ‘Never mind,’ said Mother, ‘pretend’ ”), defiantly dig in—and receive an unexpectedly warm welcome. So far so good—but the vermiform cast’s brown skin, straightened hair, exaggeratedly thick lips, and wide eyes often come off as decidedly unfunny caricatures. Steer young readers to such equally joyous, and better conceived, celebrations of diversity as Sheila Hamanaka’s All the Colors of the Earth (1994) or Sam Swope’s Araboolies of Liberty Street (1989). (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-15-205011-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS AND STILL STANDING

Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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