I AM ELEPHANT

Abundant, stylized watercolor drawings of elephants are accompanied by a sparse text in which an elephant narrator presents scattered information about both African and Asian elephants.

The book itself is well crafted, with an appealing layout on sturdy, high-quality, glossy white paper. The large, sans-serif print stands out expertly, and the complementary art is reproduced in colorful, detailed glory. This attention to production and the limited number of poetically arranged words—none of which are scientific—make the book appear to be a young child’s introduction to a representative of a magnificent, endangered species. Indeed, most of its initial text and art support this idea. For example: “Someday, I will be like my mother and grandmother—slow-motion majesty.” Nice, too, to learn the Greek derivation of elephant and to have passages citing positive references to the animals from both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. However, the penultimate and final double-page spreads take a deeper, darker turn in both text and art. Instead of a sweet ending to lull children into bedtime, it is the stuff of nightmares. There are other, better books that will encourage children’s interest in elephant conservation, including Elephants Walk Together, by Cheryl Lawton Malone and illustrated by Bistra Masseva (2017), and Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants, by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck (2017), for the youngest, and The Elephant, by Jenni Desmond (2018), for slightly older readers.

Lyrical and disturbing. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-56846-378-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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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 charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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