A wonderful concept mired in an execution that comes with far too much baggage for comfort.

LEYLA

Leyla, an anthropomorphized hamadryas baboon, lives in a giant, loving, and boisterous family. Sometimes she just wants to find a bit of quiet!

When her noisy relations become too much to bear, Leyla runs away to find her own space. In doing so, she makes the acquaintance of a very still and quiet lizard, who teaches Leyla the art of doing nothing. Together, they sit, feeling the sun, listening to the wind, and letting their minds be free of thought. When Leyla returns to her family, she is better able to appreciate their vociferous affection. At the surface level, this is a lovely story of cross-species friendship, of finding peace by connecting mindfully to the present moment, and of distance making the heart grow fonder. How unfortunate, then, that the author chose to deliver this story through the use of anthropomorphic baboons when historically in the United States, images of this type have been used to denigrate African-American families, and stereotypes that still cause harm, such as black families being “too” large or “too” loud, show up in the text. Regardless of the author’s intention, the pain this title could cause black families must be noted. To her credit, Bernstein’s imagery is playful, sweet, and well-researched, and her inspiration for the use of the baboons after seeing them in the Prospect Park Zoo is explained in a brief author’s note.

A wonderful concept mired in an execution that comes with far too much baggage for comfort. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3543-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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