A warm, engaging series kickoff with a cheerful conclusion.


From the Mysteries on Zoo Lane series , Vol. 1

Luke and his family have just moved to New York, where his father will be the vet at a new zoo.

Luke’s worried about whether or not he’ll find friends at his new home, but more than anything else he misses his beloved abuelo, who’s remained behind in Florida. Since his home is right next to the zoo, Luke has plenty of opportunity to explore, not only encountering several other children who seem friendly, but also discovering a mysterious box with some special items inside. As he works his way around the zoo, he learns about some of the endangered animals in it while he tries to find the box’s rightful owner. Eventually, he discovers the box was meant for him all along, and it turns out that Abuelo was lonely too and will be moving in to help at the zoo. This very early chapter book features large print, a simple vocabulary, plenty of white space, and an attractive illustration on nearly every spread, making it just right for those transitioning from easy readers. The simple information about endangered species is a nice bonus. Luke’s possible biracial white/Latinx heritage is suggested only in the language used to refer to his male grandparents: “abuelo” and “grandfather.” He and his family are all pale-skinned in the illustrations; other characters are diverse. Book 2, Animal at Large, publishes simultaneously.

A warm, engaging series kickoff with a cheerful conclusion. (map) (Fiction. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4666-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Hee haw.

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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