A fresh, winning blend of natural science, simple storyline, tenderness, and perseverance.

THIRSTY, THIRSTY ELEPHANTS

As drought dries up the usual sources of water for elephants in Tanzania, Little Calf’s grandmother relies on her memory to lead the elephants to a new source.

“It’s a hot, dry day in Tanzania. Grandma elephant stops munching leaves. Thirsty, she lifts her trunk high and takes a deep SNIFF! Grandma smells water in the distance and sets off.” The accessible, fact-packed language continues, as does the gentle humor provided by Little Calf, who is still learning how to effectively use her trunk. The story is not without suspense, as place after place offers little or no water to the herd that follows Grandma. Little Calf even collapses at one point, but her mother revives her quickly and cleverly, keeping her shaded after that. Colorful, mixed-media illustrations are a perfect match to the thoughtful text. Details range from the parched ground to tropical birds; from distant gazelles to the up-close, leathery skin of elephants in many positions and moods. According to the author’s note, the tale is based on a hypothesis that the reason one particular elephant herd managed so well during a 1994 drought rested squarely on their elderly leader. She apparently used her childhood memories of surviving an earlier drought to lead her herd to that same, still-available watering hole. Further elephant facts and resources round out the backmatter.

A fresh, winning blend of natural science, simple storyline, tenderness, and perseverance. (Informational picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58089-634-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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