Less implausible than Casey Lyell and Sebastià Serra’s Inky’s Great Escape (2017) but still unfortunate.

INKY THE OCTOPUS

BOUND FOR GLORY

Inky the octopus sings his tale.

Longing for the excitement of the “open sea,” a captive octopus describes its getaway. Basing her re-creation on an actual octopus’s escape from the New Zealand Aquarium, in 2016, Guendelsberger imagines the dissonance between Inky’s comfortable familiarity with aquarium life and his yearning to be free, finishing with his actual escape. The text is written in ballad meter, repeating variations on the refrain: “Out of this tank, I must break free. / I hear the ocean calling me!” Readers aloud may find some arrhythmic lines: “I’ve always liked eight-arm charades and seaweed hide-and-seek. / I’ve had fun playing gravel hockey and tentacle tag each week.” More importantly, the first-person narrative anthropomorphizes this alien ocean invertebrate, attributing dreams, senses, and communication skills that are human but not likely appropriate for octopuses or even fish. (In contradiction to the endmatter entry, the correct plural is octopuses, not the occasional octopodes or the incorrect back-formation octopi.) In a highly unlikely conversation with his tankmate Blotchy, he invites the fish to accompany him into “the far and great unknown.” The fish replies he would “rather stay / within his comfy home.” Leonard’s appealing cartoon illustrations reinforce this anthropomorphizing, with amusing expressions in Inky’s humanoid eyes and even a bag of belongings hanging from one tentacle as he imagines his quest. All the humans shown seem to be white. Since the actual escape was nothing short of astonishing, the anthropomorphization serves to cheapen rather than ennoble the subject.

Less implausible than Casey Lyell and Sebastià Serra’s Inky’s Great Escape (2017) but still unfortunate. (historical note, octopus facts, bibliography) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5414-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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