GRETCHEN GROUNDHOG, IT'S YOUR DAY!

A good choice for curriculum-boosting an underrated holiday. Poor Gretchen Groundhog is very shy, but this year, it’s her turn to pop out of the hole on February 2nd to tell everyone whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring. Great-Uncle Gus, too old for the job, offers Gretchen plenty of encouragement, but she just doesn’t think she can manage with all those people. Then her human friend, Hester, the town historian’s daughter, comes to visit with a box of old writings. Gretchen reads the words of other shy groundhogs from the past, e.g., Goody Groundhog who came on the Mayflower, George Groundhog who served at Valley Forge, etc. Gretchen realizes that she can face the crowds, just as her illustrious ancestors did, even before the official inauguration of Groundhog Day in 1887. Illustrations in soft pencil show appealing townspeople, an elegantly dressed little groundhog, and a charming burrow, complete with a picture window, stone fireplace, and a computer with Internet access (“You Have Mail”). Simple and sweet. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8075-3058-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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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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