A brief, illuminating glimpse into Inuit storytelling.

GRANDMOTHER PTARMIGAN

Grandma tries to help her little one fall asleep.

The baby bird asks for a story, but Grandma says she has none to tell. The baby keeps asking, however, so finally Grandma obliges. In her story, lemmings want to join them to get warm. “They want to crawl up your back, / under your armpits, / around your neck. / They want to crawl inside.” Clearly the little ptarmigan is uneasy, but Grandma tickles him all over anyway. Frightened, he flies for the first time—away from Grandma. Bereft, Grandma cries, “nauk, nauk.” This is no ordinary bedtime tale but a pourquoi tale that explains why baby ptarmigans fly at a very young age and females cry. Children who are accustomed to cuddling at bedtime may find this storytelling experience a bit unsettling, but in the harsh natural world of the Arctic, it provides an explanation for observed behavior. Co-author Mikkigak is an Inuit elder, storyteller and performer, and the Canadian publisher is Inuit-owned. Non-Inuit readers will probably wish for notes and a pronunciation guide, but as a cultural expression, the book has its own integrity. Leng’s art in browns and blues is lovely, employing short brush strokes that animate both feathers and flight.

A brief, illuminating glimpse into Inuit storytelling. (Picture book/folk tale. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-92709-552-2

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Inhabit Media

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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