CROCODILE LISTENS

Natural history for the younger set manages to be playful without being precious. Sayre tells the story of the first few hours of a life of a crocodile’s brood in short, sharp sentences that recall her earlier work (Dig, Wait, Listen, p. 505, etc.) and that capture well the African wildlife tumbling around a mother crocodile as she waits for her eggs to hatch. As agreeable for reading aloud as onomatopoeia is (and Sayre enlivens the well-used device with a nuanced sensitivity to rhythm and sound, adding layers of alliteration and assonance to spare prose), the real interest lies in the contrast between the deadly mother and her care for her young—a contrast heightened by the clearly observed pastel illustrations. McAllister Stammen makes the most of her medium, employing traces of purple, blue, and even pink to give the mottled hide of the crocodile a realistic edge, while razor-sharp foregrounds and blurry backgrounds give the vignettes the air of National Geographic photographs. In a striking spread, Crocodile conveys her babies to the Nile in her jaws, the squirming little ones peeping out in a way both startling and fascinating. An author’s note adds few facts that a bright reader would not be able to infer from the story, but it does provide specific scientific information. By refusing to sentimentalize the mother crocodile’s role, the author and illustrator encourage readers to see beyond stereotypes and look at the natural world with a more balanced eye. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16504-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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