A great pep-talk for nervous newcomers to school, and some reassurance that even teachers can worry about the first day.

BACK TO SCHOOL TORTOISE

In the tradition of back-to-school books that focus on the teacher, such as Julie Danneberg’s First Day Jitters (2000), this outing demonstrates that they are human, with the same fears and worries that their students face.

George cleverly leads readers to believe that Tortoise is just another kid worrying about school. He flies kites, wears a backpack and tends to trip a lot. And on the first day of school, after getting dressed and eating a good breakfast, the what-ifs start to plague him. “What if he tripped and fell? Or he didn’t like lunch? Or the kids were mean to him?” Worse yet, what if all three happened at the same time? The what-ifs paralyze him on the steps of the school, where he sits pondering. But some positive thinking turns those what-ifs around: “What if it was fun? Or lunch was his favorite? Or he made lots of new friends?” Or better yet, all three. He wouldn’t want to miss that! He bravely opens the door, greets everyone, and it is finally revealed that this is Mr. Tortoise, the teacher, who was so worried. Light colors and simple details mark Eyckerman’s illustrations, which keep George’s true professorial identity a secret right until the very end. Her characters embody the charm and innocence of young children.

A great pep-talk for nervous newcomers to school, and some reassurance that even teachers can worry about the first day. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8075-0510-6

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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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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