An engaging, informative introduction.

BIRD COUNT

A young citizen scientist helps count birds for the Christmas Bird Count, a hemispherewide event run by the National Audubon Society.

On a snowy winter morning, Ava and her mother bundle up to spend their day driving and walking around through varying habitats to count birds in the area designated to them by their local organizer. This year, Ava’s old enough to take the tally, which, in a clever design feature, runs along the side of each spread. Count guidelines are smoothly worked into Richmond’s narrative: Count every bird you see or hear; make sure at least two people see or hear it; don’t count any bird more than once. She even explains how a tally is marked. The birds, familiar to residents of eastern and central North America, are faithfully shown in context in Coleman’s digital paintings. Ava and her mother have light brown skin, and Ava’s hair is lighter and fluffier than her mother’s straight, black locks; team leader Big Al presents white. The author builds suspense by including Ava’s hope to see a raven again—a bird she saw two years ago but not on last year’s count. The story includes common frustrations: birds only one person sees and birds that were probably counted already. Their final tally—24 species, from great horned owl in the early morning to the longed-for raven at dusk—is quite respectable, and more about each featured species appears in the backmatter.

An engaging, informative introduction. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-56145-954-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

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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