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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Air Miles John Burningham, written by Bill Salaman and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"On a sunny day, with the engine roaring
and the propeller whirring, the plane sped 
across the field and rose into the air. 

Miles was flying. 

Miles was tired when he returned. 
Norman had to help him 
out of the cockpit.

What a loss to children's literature with the death of John Burningham in 2019. His bibliography includes more than thirty picture books that hold great appeal for young readers and their caregivers. In his final picture book, written with the help of his good friend Bill Salaman and illustrated by his wife, Helen Oxenbury, fans of Motor Milles (Candlewick, 2016) get a chance to see Miles embark on another adventurous journey.

This appealing sequel presents Miles in the twilight of his years. He can't run as he once did, or even walk easily anymore. His hearing is not what it had been. Perhaps Mr. Huddy, who made his car in the first adventure, can help find something to cheer Miles up. Turns out that Mr. Huddy is working on an airplane. Could Miles be the pilot for the tiny plane? 

Miles proves to be a quick study, and soon makes a solo flight. Upon his return, Miles is beat and succumbs to a long nap. All following flights are much longer. After each return, he requires more assistance. Soon, other activities stop: walks, eating, even flying. On his final day, Miles goes to the flying field where Norman lifts him into the plane. Miles takes his final flight. 

"He flew farther than ever before.
An opening note written by Helen Oxenbury, and endpapers created with John Burningham's thumbnail sketches are welcome. Touching, and full of heart. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

A Leopard Diary: My Journey into the Hidden World of a Mother and Her Cubs. By Suzi Eszterhas. Owlkids Books, 2022. $19.95 ages 7 and up


"Finally we heard movement in the bushes. 
It was Mom with her two cubs following 
behind! She flopped to the ground, right 
where we could see her clearly. She checked 
us out for a moment and then rested her head
on the grass. Bringing her cubs out in front 
of us meant she was relaxed, and it felt like 
she was giving us permission to see her cubs.

I have posted other books by Suzi Eszterhas. She is a skilled and well-known nature photographer with a keen eye and an affection for animals in the wild. In this book, she shares her personal stories from s series of visits to the Jao Reserve in Botswana. There she spent time with Kambango Sinimbo, a local guide who provided help and advice for her work in capturing stunning photos of a leopard mother and two different litters.

A great deal of patience and tracking offers readers a clear look at some of the daily teaching the mother does to ensure her cubs' safety (she hides one in a camp washroom to keep predators at bay). Food, grooming, and encouraging her young to learn on their own are all activities shown in captivating photos that will hold attention for kids interested in knowing more about these majestic cats.  

Ms. Eszterhas' love of leopards is evident on every page. Despite their ability to avoid humans, there are times when the mother seems quite comfortable with the guide and photographer. What a coup for all, as we are the recipients of the photos that chronicle these up-close encounters. A series of diary entries are telling as they follow two tiny cubs through early growth and learning, all the way through to facing the world on their own with the skills needed to survive in the wild. What could be better than that? Then, the mother begins again with a second litter. 

Many related facts are offered for further learning. This ups understanding and a love and respect for wildlife, in hopes that readers will do what they can to offer protection in the future. Your readers who have a love of animals will be intrigued and involved in learning more. 

Back matter offers an interview with Kambango, and a glossary. There is mention that a portion of the royalties from sales of this book will be donated to Children in the Wilderness. You can find out more at                                                                                  

Thursday, November 24, 2022

On This Airplane, written by Lourdes Heuer and illustrated by Sara Palacios. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"There is turbulence! 
Up, down. Up, down.
Drinks drip drop. 
Tummies flip flop ... 

... but there is a hand
to hold and there is a 
helping hand.

We know before the story begins that a house has been sold, and bags are packed. As the young family of four boards the plane, they meet a happy pilot and take note of the other people sharing the plane with them. Those people are described in telling sentences, while the cut paper, gouache and digital media artwork adds context for young readers. 

The family shares a row of seats, and get ready for takeoff. As they make their way to their destination, the author continues introducing fellow passengers. So many of the small scenes will be familiar to those who are frequent flyers. Turbulence creates a bit of chaos and some fear. All is evident on the expressive faces and in body positions. Through it all there is a real sense of community created between travelers. 

"On this airplane, 
someone lends an earbud. 
Someone lends an ear. 
Someone makes a fuss ... 
someone makes a friend.

Welcome awaits. Soon all the luggage is loaded, and the family is on its way to ... a new home. 

Lovely, and uplifting.                                                                            

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

ICEBERG: A Life in Seasons, written by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Jess Racklyeft. Groundwood Books, 2022. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"Humpback whales spiral, 
filter krill from giant mouthfuls of sea. 
Penguins dive for fish. 
Seals dive deeper to twitch-whisker hunt. 

Squid chase krill. 
Birds chase squid. 
Orca gather, linger, watch and seize. 
Short-tailed shearwaters feast then return
to their chicks. 

Who knew that making an iceberg the star of the show would result in such beauty? Those who know and admire the brilliant work done by both Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft will have guessed that it would be something. It is one of my favorite books from this year, hands down. 

The text is rich in observations made of the life cycle of the iceberg; the mixed media artwork a perfect accompaniment to the powerful descriptions for the seasons of that life. As its story begins in the last days of winter, the iceberg calves, meaning it breaks away from a glacier and makes its own place in the surrounding Antarctic waters. 

Each seasonal change transforms the iceberg itself. As in any other environment, summer brings much activity with the arrival of many birds and other species. Fall's shorter days encourage migration and preparation for the deep cold of winter when the iceberg lies motionless until the promise of another spring. Thus, this life cycle ends. 

"The iceberg twists, tilts, rocks, shears. 
It is old now - tall and small and mellow. 
It eddies into a sheltered bay, 
tips and falls.

The life of a new iceberg begins as a new dawn breaks. 

Digital illustrations created in watercolor, collage, acrylics, pencil, and ink are done in muted shades of blue, green, grey and teal in contrast to the brilliant white of the iceberg, They allow readers to see the animals that live on top of and below the ice, Careful observation results in discovering some surprises, and a gorgeous gatefold allows readers to see the many species that can be found there. 

A final page offers information about polar regions affected by climate change, a small global map and a glossary that provides help with new and pertinent vocabulary. 

Be prepared to read it once, and then again and again. Don't miss out, please.                                                                           

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Lodge That Beaver Built, written by Randi Sonenshine and illustrated by Anne Hunter. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"These are the yearlings that pile up sticks, 
then pack them with mud like mortar and bricks, 
repairing the lodge that Beaver built. 

These are the muskrats, crafty and bold, 
that pop in one day out of the cold, 
sharing the lodge that Beaver built.

The beaver plays an essential role in creating a healthy habitat. Young readers learn much about the work done to find the most convenient place for building, down the trees needed to construct the lodge that dams the water, and move on to the hard work of getting each tree in place. The dam built to block the stream provides an environment conducive to the many animals who also make their homes nearby. 

The lodge itself is maintained by yearling beavers who work tirelessly to keep it in good repair, while also offering safety and comfort for a muskrat family in need of a temporary place to stay.  As the text moves forward children learn about the other animals who are affected by the lodge's construction: musk turtle, coyote, geese, heron, and moose. When a flood destroys both dam and lodge, the beavers swim away to find a new spot. Their work begins again. The book moves full circle to a repeat of the sentence that began the story. 

Ink-and–colored pencil illustrations fully support the story. The watery habitat is inclusive of the natural surroundings and the the variety in animals that make their homes there.  

Kids interested in knowing more will find help in a set of beaver facts, a glossary, and a list of resources that promises further learning.                                                                              

Monday, November 21, 2022

KINDergarten: where kindness matters every day. Written by Vera Ahiyya and illustrated by Joey Chou. Random House Studio, Penguin Random House. 2022. $19.95 ages 4 and up


"The gym is the biggest room by far! PE 
teacher Ms. Lauren has a question for the 
class. "Does anyone have any ideas about 
ways we can show kindness in PE class?"
Many hands fly into the air.

Leo is a very quiet boy who is happy talking with the members of his family, but not with anyone else. So kindergarten presents a problem for him. He is worried when a letter arrives addressed to him. It's from his teacher and invites all students to come prepared to talk about ways to be kind as they start the school year. 

Two weeks later, Leo is still concerned about what he will say. When he meets her, his teacher understands that he might be scared. She is quick to let him know she will be there for him. Leo likes that, but he continues to worry. Meeting new friends and working on a Kindness Pledge is a big part of the first day. Everyone is invited to add ideas about kindness to a chart. Leo worries that he will be asked what he thinks, and he is not sure what he knows about being kind to others. 

He is happy when the class heads off on a trip around the school. The class visits the nurse's office, the library, the gym, and the playground where he spends time with some of the quieter kids in his class. As the day passes, Leo remains uncertain about sharing his ideas. As the conversation continues before they leave for the day, the other children begin to talk about the kind things Leo has quietly done throughout this first day. No words needed. 

When his dad arrives to pick him up, Leo is feeling fully ready to return for day two of KINDergarten! Although this book is meant to be read on the first day of school, it can be shared at any time during the year. A Kindness Pledge should be a work in progress all year long. 

Digital illustrations are bright and rife with familiar school activities. They add context to the first day for Leo as he becomes more comfortable. A Kindness Pledge chart is included, as well as an author's note and additional suggestions for creating a kind classroom.  

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Counting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems, written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Priscilla Tey. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 8 and up


"One fifth of me 
is a brother. 
One fifth of me 
is a son. 

One fifth collects 
old comic books. 
One fifth finds 
campouts fun. 

One fifth of me 
loves shooting hoops 
or scoring 
a soccer goal. 

Five fifths combined
make all of me. 
I'm a living, 
breathing whole!

I am always on the lookout for new poetry to share with kids and their teachers. What about pairing poetry and math? That's exactly what Betsy Franco has chosen to do for this new book. It is a lot of fun for all. The 20 poems are divided into four separate sections: Hanging Out at Home, Math Musing, School Daze and finally, Last Bell, School's Out! 

I found a favorite or two in each section. It was difficult to choose the one I would use to open this post. In fact, I have changed the opening twice already as I go back and read some poems again. Readers will find numerous ones to share with their friends and classmates.

The topics are many, and Ms. Franco's way with wordplay make them appealing and relatable for her audience.  

"Do numerals get out of sorts?
Do fractions get along?
Do equal signs complain and gripe
when kids get problems wrong?” 

Offering a host of complaints from those trying to figure out things that are often annoying in terms of math and numbers, the poet also includes a guessing game, a poem to perform with a friend, and even a group of number palindromes. 

Priscilla Tey creates gouache artwork that is funny, frantic, and downright serene, in keeping with the mood of each poem included. There is lots here to make readers snicker, while also speaking to truths they know at home and at school. 

"Today, when she said, "Just a sec,"
I timed my mom ... and then 
one hundred seconds tick-tocked by -
she'd pulled her trick again. 

The next time Mom says, "Clean your room. 
Right now! Your floor's a wreck!"
I'll answer, "Sure, no problem, Mom. 
I'll do it in a sec.

Careful word choice and a genius mix of number and math concepts, make this great fun to read out loud, to think about, and to respond to the concepts being considered. It's a terrific addition to any home or classroom library where it is sure to find fans. 

"That’s three months of summer
but nine months of school!
It must have been grown-ups
who made up
that rule!