A PAIR OF WINGS

This diverse writer, sometimes poet, sometimes humorist, sometimes naturalist, explores the topic of wings—how they are shaped, what they are made of, and how they work for their animal owners. She describes how the long, narrow ones of the arctic tern help the birds soar on air currents, while the rounded ones of the owl give this predator faster takeoff, and the slim crescent-shaped wings of the swallow allow them to twist and turn through the air as they hunt flying insects. She discusses the other uses of wings: to scare off rivals, to attract a mate, to lure an enemy away from a nest, and to cool off a hot bird. The text is rich in details that will intrigue and interest young naturalists, though the format of a large-sized picture book may deter some older readers. Each double-page spread is illustrated with full-color paintings of the flyers discussed. While the illustrations are beautiful and accurate, the inclusion of so many different animals on the same double page without regard for size, or region of the world in which they live, could be distracting. For example, one set of pages shows a black vulture, a bald eagle, a barn owl, a barn swallow, a hummingbird, a great horned owl diving after a mouse, a hummingbird approaching a flower for nectar, a flock of swallows, and two Emperor penguins with baby. Visually it’s a lot to absorb. The more successful paintings show a single habitat—a meadow, for instance—and the plants and winged creatures that live in and around it. Additionally, a sequence that shows how a bat uses its wings to catch its lunch is especially effective. The author concludes with Web sites and addresses of organizations to contact for more information about conservation, a glossary, further reading, and a brief index. (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-8234-1547-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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RED-EYED TREE FROG

Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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KENNY & THE DRAGON

Reports of children requesting rewrites of The Reluctant Dragon are rare at best, but this new version may be pleasing to young or adult readers less attuned to the pleasures of literary period pieces. Along with modernizing the language—“Hmf! This Beowulf fellow had a severe anger management problem”—DiTerlizzi dials down the original’s violence. The red-blooded Boy is transformed into a pacifistic bunny named Kenny, St. George is just George the badger, a retired knight who owns a bookstore, and there is no actual spearing (or, for that matter, references to the annoyed knight’s “Oriental language”) in the climactic show-fight with the friendly, crème-brulée-loving dragon Grahame. In look and spirit, the author’s finely detailed drawings of animals in human dress are more in the style of Lynn Munsinger than, for instance, Ernest Shepard or Michael Hague. They do, however, nicely reflect the bright, informal tone of the text. A readable, if denatured, rendition of a faded classic. (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4169-3977-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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