Both too complicated and too simple at the same time.

MAMA MONARCH

Rhyming text follows a monarch butterfly’s migration from Mexico to the Great Lakes.

The couplets work. The poetic images are effective and evocative. But this abbreviated overview will confuse rather than enlighten very young children. The life cycle of the butterfly, that they are threatened, and how people can help them survive are hinted at but not explained. Scientific background printed in a tiny font is on the back cover. A simplified map—a concept that’s far more advanced than the rest of the text, which is mostly an enumeration of flowers—on the second page shows only the northern migration through the Midwest. Western swarms, the southbound route, and sites of winter roosts are not shown. Instead the text describes the flowering plants that provide nutrients for the monarch’s trip. Asters, thistle, a generic “vine,” sunflowers, dill, and clover are mentioned before the monarch finds a “welcome home” on milkweed. But explaining that she needs milkweed on which to lay her eggs is left to the adult sharing the reading experience, and the seasonality of the flowers is jumbled. The colorful blossoms and the monarch’s bright orange-and-black wing pattern stand out against sky-blue backgrounds. Reducing the complex and awe-inspiring process of monarch migration to pretty pictures and sweet words leaves out too much and suggests the topic is best left till readers are older.

Both too complicated and too simple at the same time. (Board book. 6 mos.-2)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-936669-81-3

Page Count: 14

Publisher: blue manatee press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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