October 21, 2017

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Primates on Parade | SLJ Spotlight

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A young gorilla learns to take challenges in stride and not to overreact; a family of orangutans living in an animal sanctuary in Borneo wins readers’ hearts; a monkey and a gorilla both perform in a circus, but which one has the star power?; Monkey and his friend Duck enter a rhyming contest with hysterical results; and a gorilla goes to extreme lengths to capture the attention of a boy glued to a TV.

bettygoesbananasAntony, Steve. Betty Goes Bananas. illus. by Steve Antony. 32p. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Dec. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553507614; ebk. $19.99. ISBN 9780553507621. LC 2014005747.

PreS-Gr 1 –A young gorilla is unable to open a banana she wants to eat and proceeds to cry, kick, sniffle, and scream about it. A calm Mr. Toucan arrives to help, but that only angers Betty more; she wants to peel the fruit herself. As she finally prepares to savor her snack, it breaks, resulting in yet another massive freak out. Several times Mr. Toucan reminds Betty that her behavior is unnecessary, and Betty is ultimately able to enjoy her banana. Naturally, she promptly stumbles upon another on the very last page, leaving readers to imagine Betty going bananas all over again. The banana-print end papers set the tone for the book. Black, white, pink, and red are the only other colors used, so the bright, classic yellow stands out and contrasts nicely with Betty’s black fur. The texture and style of the graphite pencil illustrations are reminiscent of children’s crayon drawings, and the repetition and silliness of Betty’s dramatic behavior allow for reader participation and discussion. A lively companion to Molly Bang’s When Sophie Gets Angry… (Scholastic, 2004).–Whitney LeBlanc, Staten Island Academy, NY

orangutankaredstarEngle, Margarita. Orangutanka. illus. by Renée Kurilla. 40p. further reading. websites. Holt. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805098396.

PreS-Gr 2 –A sprightly introduction to orangutans through nimble wordplay and attractive book design. Kurilla’s pen-and-ink illustrations frame Engle’s tanka verses, which relate a simple story of an orangutan family in an animal sanctuary in Borneo. Massive papa, whose “great weight makes/low branches waltz slowly” and mama, baby, inquisitive big sister, and watchful grandma live an idyllic existence amid the tall trees. Child-friendly verse evokes the habitat and should have wide appeal: “Imagine/rain forest music—/insects/buzz, zoom, and hum/while green leaves swish.” Teachers will also appreciate the page of orangutan facts, where they can find print and online suggestions for further reading. Readers learn that the long-term outlook for this species of gentle primates is in doubt as deforestation threatens their rainforest habitats in Borneo and Sumatra. Engle also includes a note describing tanka poetry, an ancient Japanese format; the modern form is unrhymed and consists of five lines (short, long, short, long, long) of linked poems. She concludes by inviting children to write their own poems and dance like orangutans “with energetic arms and legs.” This well-crafted book, with its accomplished verses and smattering of facts, should earn a wide audience.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

secondbananaGraves, Keith. Second Banana. illus. by Keith Graves. 32p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596438835. LC 2014009899.

PreS-Gr 2 –Amazing Bubbles is the star of the circus. This monkey is dramatic. He’s stylish—he’s Top Banana! His sidekick, a gorilla named Oop, is Second Banana. Big, sweet, and blundering, Oop is always there to help, although she wants to be a star performer, too. When Bubbles injures his toe, Oop gets her chance. “Oops!” she says as she creates one disaster after another. Her miscues are made more hilarious by her expressions. Her ridiculous inability to do anything right, in the end, is met with great acclaim. The jumbled, frantic action of Oop’s attempts to save the day are fittingly represented in comic-style frames. The cartoon illustrations are in pencil and digital color. This goofy story about the friendship between a monkey and a gorilla (and a mouse) is a delight.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

monkeyandduckHamburg, Jennifer. Monkey and Duck Quack Up! illus. by Edwin Fotheringham. 32p. Scholastic. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545645140; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545645157. LC 2013035362.

PreS-Gr 2 –When Monkey spies a sign advertising a two-person rhyming contest, he is certain that he and his pal Duck can easily win the grand prize of a three-day cruise. “We can do this, we can rhyme!/We’re young, we’re hip, we’re in our prime.” Unfortunately, Monkey’s desire to find rhyming words jointly is squelched by Duck’s inability to respond with anything but “Quack!” Monkey offers up “Beat, Sheet, Meet, Greet…Wash your feet…Trick or treat.” “Quack” is Duck’s only response. When a frustrated Monkey is about to give up, then inspiration strikes. They enter the contest, and Monkey recites words that rhyme with quack: “Rack, Sack, Plaque, Track!” and so on. After winning the contest, they have a great time on their cruise. True to their personality differences, Duck relaxes and Monkey tries every activity offered. The pleasing, digitally rendered illustrations are presented in bold yellow and orange, on backgrounds of green, blue, and purple. The text rhymes, of course, although at times it is a bit forced and singsong. The surprise ending lifts this tale a bit, but the book will serve best as an additional purchase.–Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA

lookMack, Jeff. Look! illus. by Jeff Mack. 32p. Philomel. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399162053.

PreS-Gr 1 –Mack’s latest picture book is told with only two words, but they convey an array of emotions, including excitement, surprise, anger, and sadness. A playful gorilla tries to get a boy’s attention by flinging around books and stepping on them. But no matter how many times (or ways) the gorilla says, “Look” (14), the boy keeps his eyes on the television. As the gorilla’s behavior becomes increasingly unruly, the boy’s exclamations of “Look out!” become serious. When the gorilla accidentally breaks the TV, the boy shouts “Out! Out! Out!” but then discovers the joy of reading, and shares his discovery with the gorilla. “Look. Look! Look! Look!” he says while pointing to the gorilla and Tarzan characters on the page. Mixed-media illustrations and alternating font styles are set against different colored and textured backdrops. This is a fun read-aloud that will have children wanting to look and look again.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada

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