The initial rural setting and avian protagonist may be unfamiliar to some readers, but the author/artist’s admiration for...

FALCON

Gorgeous artwork and an unusual subject will likely boost the appeal of this (literal and figurative) flight of fancy.

After starting with a single-page, sun-warmed portrait of a Tucson young boy, Jessell’s realistic paintings stretch across a series of two-page spreads to offer stunning vistas. Speaking in the first person, the boy describes how he would fly, what he might see and how other animals would respond, “If I were a falcon…” Close-ups show the falcon’s sharp gaze, strong wings and fierce beak, all attributes alluded to in the brief, lyrical text. Shifts in perspective provide visual interest and amplify the impact of the prose, as when a blue jay and starling, viewed from below, peer warily up at the falcon flying high overhead. Cliffs, mountains, ocean waves and city skyscrapers loom large, and for the most part realism prevails, though there is just a touch of anthropomorphism (and humor) when the falcon dive-bombs startled pedestrians. The story then comes full circle, back to the boy, this time depicted running across the field, mimicking the falcon’s flight and wishing “Oh, if only I were a falcon…”

The initial rural setting and avian protagonist may be unfamiliar to some readers, but the author/artist’s admiration for the beauty of the natural world and the fascination of imagining another life shine through clearly. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86866-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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