Total Pageviews

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Science Comics: Elephants Living Large. Written by Jason Viola and illustrated by Faylnn Koch. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2024. $16.99 ages 9 and up

"The biggest threat to our family would be 
Grandmother's death. I don't know what 
we would do. 

If we lost her, it would be as if we lost 

I worry about what could happen 
without her to guide us.

If you have not read or even seen the Science Comics series books, quick to the library to see what they have! Here are but a few of the titles: Dinosaurs, Coral Reefs, Bats, Robots and Drones, Dogs, The Brain, Birds of Prey, Trees, The Solar System, Cars, Frogs, Wild Weather, Bridges, The Periodic Table of Elements, and the list goes on. I'm sure you can find a title there that would be of interest to someone you know. 

In this terrific addition to the series readers learn in both entertaining and informative ways what living life as an elephant on a day-to-day basis is like. It is narrated by Duni, an eight-year-old elephant whose life within her matriarchal family is described in graphic novel form. She talks about her older brother who remains attached to the herd without being around much. That worries his sister. 

It may be surprising to readers how similar elephants are to humans, in various ways. They live in families, care about the welfare of others, support those in need of support and honor their elders. Readers will also learn about the differences between species, their trunks and tusks and how they are used, those animals that threaten them and their families, their rituals in finding a mate. 

Excellent illustrations, charts, maps, dialogue, humor and constant learning are what make this book a real treat for those kids who want to know more about these amazing mammals and their families. The book follows Duni for several years, always informing readers about survival, threats, and their most endearing characteristics. 

Illustrations by Falynn Koch add context, humor, and great detail to help with the learning. A glossary provides definitions of terms presented throughout the text. 

"Like our home range, 
an elephant family 
follows a cycle ... 

... while also changing, 
growing, and moving. 

Don't worry. 
We're all in this 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Out of the Valley of the Horses, written by Wendy Orr. Pajama Press, 2024. $23.95 ages 9 and up


"She grabbed a thick vine growing from a crack 
in the waterfall rocks and swung out to drop into 
the pool below. It was deep and deliciously perfect, 
warm and swirly, because the waterfall kept on 
pouring cold water into the hot. Honey's feet 
touched the bottom and then she was bursting 
up through the surface, laughing and spluttering
with her hair floating around her.

Honey and her family found peace in the enchanted valley of the horses. It is just what they were looking for when they chose to leave their home in search of adventure, because of the terrible sickness that was threatening the world. As they drove over the bridge that led them into the valley, it disappeared behind them. While it offered what they needed in terms of isolation, it also became a prison when they could not find their way out. 

Honey, Nanna, Momma, Papa and her younger brother, Rumi, learned to live off what the valley provides and what they brought with them in the ice cream van that is their home. Honey was four when they arrived; she is now approaching her eleventh birthday. The horses are a constant presence and allow the children to ride them. It is idyllic, for the most part. They spend days riding to various parts of the valley. None allow them to see the bridge that brought them across the river when they first arrived. 

The family is now facing a problem that no one can fix - Papa is sick, and getting sicker. The first aid book tells them that he has appendicitis and that he needs help. On a ride with Midnight and Moongold one day, the children think they see a brown strip they think is the bridge. It allows Honey to consider riding out of the valley in search of an ambulance to get her father to the hospital. 

On her eleventh birthday, she takes a chance at finally finding a way out. She and Moonglow set off on a journey away from the valley. Rumi is the only one who knows where she has gone. Moongold's magic is up to the task. Together they discover an outside world filled with new and unusual people and places for Honey. Through it all, they find what they are looking for, and get the help Papa needs. 

This mix of fantasy and realism is a wonderful family story that reads quickly and appeals throughout the telling. The apt descriptions of both valley and real world are compelling and hold interest from start to finish. Honey is a strong, resourceful, thoughtful character and her journey is worthy. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

The Smallest Owlet, written and illustrated by Georgia Graham. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2023. $24.95 ages 5 and up


"Each day the owlets grow louder. Today, 
Smallest Owlet squawks, demanding to be 
fed, and the other two owlets join in. 

Father Owl delivers the body of a plump
ground squirrel. Mother Owl tears off tiny
pieces and feeds the owlets one at a time. 
She knows to feed her smallest owlet the 
tiniest pieces.

While relating a family tale based on something that happened in a grove of trees behind Georgia Graham's house, the author also manages to offer up a bundle of information about the great horned owls who nested there. 

Her story begins in winter, when snow is still on the ground and the trees are bare of leaves. A pair of owls are on the lookout for a place to rest and nest while winter turns to spring. They find an old magpie nest and choose it as the place for laying three eggs ... one each day for three days. The female stays with the eggs; the male provides the food she needs. 

The owlets are born one at a time, in the order that they were laid. Each is smaller than the one that comes ahead of them. They are loud, and they are hungry. While the mother feeds them, the father flies back and forth providing all the sustenance they need. Weeks later, all are resting when a visit from crows startles them all, especially Smallest Owl. 

The owlets are growing and both Father and Mother are on a constant hunt for food. One stays with the owlets while the other is off searching. While the owlets cannot yet fly, they can feed themselves when there is food to eat. When crows attack, mother and babies are terrified. Father Owl arrives to chase them away. In his fear Smallest Owlet tumbles from the nest. 

Mother Owl stays with him on the ground, while Father takes care of feeding his entire family. Mother Owl is a formidable protector of her young, from a coyote and an inquisitive family of visitors. Luckily, Smallest Owlet is now capable of climbing up the tree's bark and back to the nest. From there, he and his siblings will soon learn everything they need to know. At nine weeks old, they are flying and feeding themselves.   

Ms. Graham’s brilliant, realistic artwork will have all readers poring over the book's pages. Hers is a remarkable close-up look at the Great Horned Owl. In backmatter, she provides four additional pages of facts, all exceedingly fascinating.  

"Great Horned Owls eat a wide variety of 
prey, but their main food source is small 
mammals, including skunks. They don't 
mind the smell - owls have a very poor 
sense of smell.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Benjamin's Thunderstorm, written by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Hawlii Pichette. Kids Can Press, 2024. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"His friend Joe told him that thunder was 
the sound of the thunderbirds beating
their giant wings in the sky. 
Benjamin thought it sounded exactly 
like the drum his grandfather played. 
Like a heartbeat.

Like most kids, Benjamin loves the rain. Give him some rainboots and big puddles and he is a happy boy! As he jumps and plays, he can hear rolling thunder. Remembering what Joe told him, he imitates thunder's roar to prove he has no fear of it. Of all the beauty to be found in rain, Benjamin loves thunder first. 

When lightning makes a jolting appearance, Benjamin is not so keen. He hears his mother calling; the lure thunder's sounds keep him where he is and stepping in time to the drumbeats he feels in his heart. He dances as he makes his way closer to home. 

"He danced past puddles, nodding to the rainbows inside them. He spun, first one way, then the other. He tapped his feet and lifted his knees like his father had taught him."

When the thunder stops, Benjamin can again hear his mother calling him home. He is safe and warm with her when the storm finally moves in. What joy it is to dance in the rain! Anyone who has done will know exactly how Benjamin feels. 

Ms. Florence does a wonderful job of allowing readers to feel the pure joy Benjamin feels as he experiences a thunderstorm. By comparing it to the joy felt when dancing powwow, those who share this story will feel the power of the drums and the call to dance. Hawlii Pichette's inspired images are full of color and joy. Many Cree words are used throughout the text. A pronunciation guide and translations following the story help with understanding.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

When Rabbit Was a Lion, written and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes. Owlkids, 2023. $21.95 ages 3 and up


"With oodles of things that had to be done, 
the rabbit whispered to himself. 
"One thing at a time, Rabbit. One thing at 
a time."

He mowed the lawn and weeded and raked
and watered the garden and scrubbed and 
baked. He gathered flowers and decorated 
the yard.

Rabbit is keen on his friends and likes having them near. The little girl, who lives with him and knows him very well, is surprised when he suggests he would like to have a party. Rabbit doesn't like noise or crowds, but he likes those friends. So, she helps him with plans for the costume party. 

Rabbit immediately begins work on his mask, keeping what he plans to be to himself until he is finished his work. It's a busy time for both as they make preparations for a good time. When everything is done and the party is about to begin, Rabbit starts to question himself.. 

"What if I look silly in my costume? 
What if the party is a flop?"

The little girl assures him that it might be very good and a lot of fun. As the guests arrive, Rabbit is impressed with their costumes; the guests are delighted with the party. The air is filled with music, laughter, talk ... all very loud! The rabbit, dressed as a lion, is happy to see his friends having a great time. Then, he isn't. He finds a place to rest as the noise hits a crescendo, covering his ears before landing in a flower bed. Poor rabbit. He is done. 

His friends realize what is happening and very quickly change the tone of the celebration. Speaking softly, choosing quiet pursuits, and having time to paint leads to a happier lion. When asked the following day what he would like to do next week, the rabbit has a surprise in store for his friend. Or is it? 

Warm, softly-colored images fill the pages and offer a story that speaks for those introverted kids who like to party in their own quiet way. Rabbit is lucky to have thoughtful, caring friends who accept him for who he is and honor that.                                                                                       

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Just Like Millie, written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2024. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Inside a lady met us with a dog in her arms. 
A not too big, not too small dog. 
A just right dog. 
"This is Millie," the lady said. "Would you 
like to pet her?"
I was nervous, but I wanted to pet Millie.

A young girl narrates this family story, telling readers that she and her mom are new to the city and living in a new apartment. It's just the two of them. When Mom works from home, the child entertains herself with blocks, crayons, and books. 

Her mom offers a trip to the park to meet new kids; the child is reluctant. 

"Mom would nod and day, "Okay." 

Meetings with new neighbors result in the same reluctance from the child and acceptance from her mom. A visit to the bookstore for story time gets the same result. Then one day, the two head over to the animal shelter where they meet Millie. Millie changes everything. Millie goes home with them. The two are inseparable as they take walks around the neighborhood. Millie's happy visits along the way provide a feeling of safety for the little girl who begins to feel more comfortable around others. 

A visit to the dog park provides the perfect opportunity for new friendship for all. 

Using colored ink, watercolor and pastels, Ms. Castillo fills her pages with details that are textured and quietly appealing in every way. Millie's tail wagging will be much admired by all who share this gentle tale. I love the endpapers; they add depth to the telling. 

Unicorn Boy, by Dave Roman with color by Heather Mann. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2024. $19.99 ages 8 and up


"My friend Avery has been taken by the 
shadows. And it's probably my fault. 

I need to find them. 
I'll give whatever you want.
Just please help us. 

Ugh. Friendship. More 
trouble than it's worth.
How do you know this friend
is worth risking your own neck over?

Brian Reyes is just an ordinary kid ... until he sprouts a unicorn horn and is able to do things he has never done! As he tries to ignore the taunts of his classmates, he learns a little about his ability to fly through the air. It is of great use when his best friend Avery is pulled into a whirlpool in the back yard. The tables turn when this happens; Avery has always defended Brian. Now, it is Brian's turn to help Avery.  With help from Maggie Mandrake, a talking muffin, and a black cat he is encouraged to accept his abilities and do something. 

Following Avery, Brian shows the bravery and self-confidence that comes when your friend is more important than anything else. The underworld is populated by shadow creatures controlled by the Skull-King, and other oddball characters, including a gondolier and the Gran Reaper. Will bravery and friendship be all Unicorn Boy needs to prevail? 

This is the first in a new series from Dave Roman, whose previous books include the Astronaut Academy series. He is a great cartoonist and storyteller. The art is bold, immersive and is sure to appeal to many graphic novel fans. There are moments of uncertainty, fear, humor and engaging triumph as Unicorn Boy becomes more confident while doing all he can to help his best friend. This imagined journey is one many middle graders would love to take. 

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Walls: The Long History of Human Barriers and Why We Build Them. Written by Gregor Craigie and illustrated by Arden Taylor. Orca Book Publishers, 2024. $29.95 ages 9 and up

"While some walls were built to keep people out, 
others were erected with the sole purpose of 
keeping people inside. Those walls acted like 
giant prisons, trapping the unwilling inside
and making it practically impossible to escape. 
Such walls made possible some of the cruelest 
events in history.

This book is Gregor Craigie's second book written with young people in mind. In it, he discusses the many reasons for having walls. His research dates back to the Great Wall of China and forward to modern fences built at borders today. In ten chapters he offers looks throughout history at the reasons walls have been built: to keep people out, to keep people in, to protect crops and livestock, to defend against the enemy, to control nature, to keep two sides apart, to protect the city, to make money, to set boundaries, and finally, to protect the planet. Each is quite fascinating, even though some are also quite disturbing. 

His introduction concerns a village in Vermont that has a street with a double yellow line. It is the only indication that the village itself sits in two countries; the north side in Canada, the south side in the United States. There are no walls or fences to separate them. That is not the case for many other places in the world where walls have been constructed since very early times. 

Two of the oldest are The Great Wall of China and Ukraine's Ancient Walls, while two more modern are the United States-Mexico Border Wall and the Hungary Border Barrier. As the author explores the many reasons for creating these walls, he introduces his readers to the geography and appeal of many world communities. The book's tone is conducive to learning, and to thinking about the reasons these walls were built. Archival photographs are captioned, and digital illustrations are created to provide further information for an interested audience.  

Building walls and often tearing them down is a part of the world's history. Sometimes they have helped; other times they have been a hindrance. Why do we have them? If you really want to know, this is a grand place to start. 

A table of contents, glossary, further resources, and an index are all included.

Walls is one of seven books that are part of the Orca Timeline series. Other titles include: What Do We Eat? Vaccines. Cities. Are We There Yet? Are We Having Fun Yet? and Why Humans Build Up