BABY BEAR

The award-winning Nelson turns from nuanced treatments of historical subjects to this exploration of a classic preschool trope: a lost animal’s search for home.

Baby Bear wanders before a huge, rising full moon, encountering a succession of forest animals. Each—whether a frog caught midmunch or a towering, pensive moose—offers a bit of gentle advice. Strung together, these gems could stand as a guide to life for readers of all ages: Retrace your steps. Trust yourself. Hug a tree. Listen to your heart. Climb a little higher. Sing a song. Look up and keep going. Yet owing to Baby Bear’s childlike vulnerability, all this imparted wisdom can be psychically tough to implement in the moment. There’s poignancy in certain spreads, in which Baby Bear tries enacting just-received advice. When Moose asks “Hello, Baby Bear. / What are you doing?” Baby Bear demurs: “Uh, nothing.” (The cub’s hugging a tree, on counsel of a couple of squirrels.) Nelson’s marvelous oils play with light and alternating perspective. Against the starlit, velvet-blue sky, the luminous moon picks out the whiskers and tawny fur of Mountain Lion. It’s dawn when Salmon leads Baby Bear through the final leg of the journey home. Integral endpapers frame the story: At front, golden moonlight pools in a river bend; at back, the sun’s rays pour over the ridge. Children will enjoy spotting several of the narrative’s animals in miniature. Resonant. (Picture book. 4-7)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-224172-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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