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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks. Written by Skila Brown and illustrated by Bob Kolar. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016.$22.00 ages 5 and up

"Blue shark, blue shark,
you dip and dive all day.

Pointy snout, bullet nose,
bold eyes that never close,
graceful as the water flows,
bay to bay to bay.

Blue shark, blue shark ... "

If you work with kids in the library or the classroom, or you have children of your own, you will know exactly the ones who are spellbound at the thought of sharks ... and cannot get enough information to suit them. You will always be on the lookout for that new book! You should look no further than Skila Brown's new poetry book about fourteen different sharks, each with its own particular characteristics. As you will see, they are not all the same!

In this exploration of the frightful creatures that lurk in deep waters. Ms. Brown chooses not only the most recognizable of the lot - the great white and the hammerhead - she also includes some that are not so well known to many of us. Each is given a full double page spread to present its most important and telling attributes. I greatly admire the way the text is presented, always in keeping with the character of the shark itself.

For instance, the bull shark:

"Tenacious, aggressive, and stocky,
you ambush your prey at the shore.
You'll eat anything,
button, boat, fin or wing;
you chomp it up, then search for more.

You sneak into freshwater rivers
before your prey finds time to flee.
You give them a bump,
taste a bit of their rump;
you're just an old bull of the sea."

Then she adds a tiny bit of additional detail:

"Bull sharks are unpredictable animals. They head-butt their prey before taking a
bite of them and can even tolerate freshwater, sometimes swimming into rivers!"

Shark aficionados are going to gobble it up, you know they are!

Bob Kolar's digital images accurately and menacingly show those creatures who strike fear in the hearts of many, and admiration and interest in so many others.  Muted shades of green, blue, brown and grey place us in the water with them, as light plays all around them and from many angles.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Eat your greens reds yellows and purples, edited by Sadie Thomas. DK Canada, 2016. $15.99 ages 6 and up

"HOWDY, ALL! First up, there's bold broccoli, then there's amazing avocado, followed by luscious lime, powerful peas, great green beans, and last, but not least, strong spinach! Greens are good for your overall health and, in particular, your blood and heart ... I'm high in antioxidants, which help to slow down wear and tear on your body's cells."

If you want to up the vegetables and fruits that your family is eating, it's so important for kids to buy into the idea. What better way than to have them help prepare a family meal? To that end, I want to tell you about this wonderful new book from DK Publishing. You know how much I love their books!

As you can tell by the title, this one gives guidance in getting more greens, reds, yellows, purples and oranges into your diet. There is a section carefully prepared for each of the colors, and each of those sections begins with the reasons for eating that color, and then introducing those fruits and vegetables that will be used in the delicious recipes to follow. The recipes are presented in double page spreads, each with a numbered method for preparation, a list of the ingredients that will be used and clear, colorful photographs meant to make your mouth water.

In the green section, I chose first to try the green bean stir-fry (AMAZING!) and then the Black Bean and Guacamole Quesadilla (sure to a favorite for my soon-to-be-visiting granddaughter). Both will become part of my meal plan. With sections on reds, yellows, purples and oranges to go, I'm sure you will find some family favorites as well. Red Pepper Hummus, Layered Berry Cheesecakes, Sunshine Rice, and Carrot and Orange treats are next up for my taste buds!

The opening section presents safety rules, a key to the symbols used, the equipment used for preparation of the 25 vegetarian recipes included, the health benefits that come from including each of the colors in a balanced diet, the many fruits and vegetables available for our use, and help in preparing some of the basic ingredients used. Then, on with the collection of deliciousness ... so many appealing and appetizing new meals to try. I know you will find something here to please every member of the family.

A clear table of contents and an index are helpful.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Who Broke the Teapot? Written and illustrated by Bill Slavin. Tundra Books, Random House. 2016. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Says Brother,
spinning in the air,
"If I'm up here
I wasn't there."

Says Papa, sitting
in his chair,
"I'm only wearing
Reading here without
a care!"

Mom is furious, and bound and determined to get to the bottom of the 'mystery' of the broken teapot. Someone is responsible and she wants to know who that is!

"This was my very best teapot!
It was my favorite of the lot!
It poured and did not spill a drop.
And kept the tea so nice and hot.

I used it for my ladies lunch,
special days
and Sunday brunch -
And now it's lying here all


The search for the culprit ramps up as mom does the same. Each and every family member denies culpability. They admit they were in the vicinity, but they each have an iron-clad alibi - except the baby. Could it have been the baby? Poor Mom! Will she ever discover how her teapot got broken?

I'm not telling!

Bill Slavin has created a tale that will be read again and again - even when listeners know exactly what happened to the teapot. The text is rhythmic and spare, but the story is told with flare. And the artwork! You will surely be entertained by the action and antics, the facial expressions and the chaos of the kitchen. The bold colors, the subtle and not-so-subtle details on each page will have readers howling with delight. Done in acrylics on gessoed board, the illustrations are textured and varied  in perspective. As well, variation in font and letter size offers the reader a chance to impact the drama when reading aloud - this book is just perfect for that.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Circle, by Jeannie Baker. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $24.00 ages 5 and up

"The flock flies high
above the clouds,
chattering at times
to help stay close together.
Each bird takes a turn
to lead the way.

They follow an ancient,
invisible pathway
for six nights ... "

We meet the young boy before the story begins ... and learn something about him: he is in a wheelchair, he is an interested reader, and he has a wish to fly like the godwits in his book.  Then, on the title page we are told: "In its lifetime a godwit will usually fly farther than the distance from the earth to the moon."

He and his mother visit the beach in time to see a flock of godwits take to the sky. Binoculars in hand, he watches as one particular bird (with white wing patches) joins the others as their lengthy and gruelling journey north begins.

The reader is witness to that flight, watching as the godwits travel for days before making their only stop along the way. Their need to stop is stymied by the loss of habitat that once provided food and safety, making the trip even more exhausting. Success in their search replenishes their bodies and provides needed sustenance for the rest of their migration to the Arctic where finding a mate is the order of the day. Chicks are born ... four of them; only one will survive. As the chick grows, the pair know that the time has come to prepare for the journey back. The chick is left behind to follow at a later time.

Soon, the flock takes to the air once more .. this time there is no rest stop. As they return from the  northern reaches of Alaska to their home on the Australian beach, so does the boy return to the nature reserve that is protected for them ... this time, with crutches and obviously much healed. Both have endured difficulty with courage and resolve.

Lovely text is placed on incredible collages, Ms. Baker's signature artwork. She creates the most wonderful images of the two worlds that nurture the godwits, and everything in between. We get a bird's-eye view for much of the trip, while also seeing their stops from our own perspective. I love reading such books for their informative and intriguing content, and for the new learning. I had no knowledge of the godwit and its incredible migration.

An author's note is a reminder that all living things are connected, and any large-scale changes may threaten what is 'an age-old, wondrous circle of life'. Three websites are included for those readers wanting to know more, as well as a migration map and a list of the other migrating creatures shown in the book.                                          

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Heart Fills With Happiness, written by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Julie Flett. Orca Books, 2016. $9.95 ages 2 and up

"My heart fills with
happiness when ...

I hold the hand
of someone I love

I listen
to stories ... "

Would that we all take the time each morning to think about what it is that makes us happy. Wouldn't that be the perfect start to each new day?

Dedicated in part to 'the former Indian Residential School students and their families', Monique Gray Smith writes a quiet song of celebration for those simple things that bring so much pleasure to our lives. Julie Flett's strong cast of aboriginal children and adults savor the daily joys brought by family life and being in the company of the people we love.

The textual phrasing is concise and meaningful, inviting readers to think clearly about what makes a heart fill with happiness. The feelings evoked by being with family and taking part in common events are fully on display in the bold colors and familiar surroundings of young children from all over the world. Whether it's walking barefoot in the grass or watching bannock bake, listeners will feel the warmth of the words and relish the memory of the moments that bring joy.

What fills your heart with happiness?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Beach Baby, written by Laurie Elmquist and illustrated by Elly MacKay.Orca Books, 2016. $9.95 ages 2 and up

"Sand dollars

A seal
peering out of the waves

A sandpiper whose peep
startles your dreams

The castle waits for you
with its turrets and shells"

There are so many of the day's experiences to recall as this tiny child is quietly put to bed for the night. When he wakes, the chance to revisit all those wonderful things will be there once more. A day at the beach, with the calm of the ocean waves as background music. Idyllic, is it not?

Elly MacKay uses paper, ink, light and photography to create the absolutely gorgeous, and dreamy, artwork. She captures the beauty of the beach and the ocean environment in close-up images that are detailed and soothing. The morning and evening views of the house atop a nearby hill are both welcoming.  Children listening will succumb to the assurance that tomorrow offers another chance for a visit to familiar places and to the warmth and beauty of the seaside. The soothing illustrations are sure to remind them of their lovely day full of wonder.

Friday, June 24, 2016

This is not a picture book! By Sergio Ruzzier. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"A book!"

Hmm ...
There are only words in
this book?

Where are the pictures?!

This is not  a picture

Brilliant! I have been raving about this wonderful new book from Sergio Ruzzier for months, it seems. I am not sure why it has taken me so long to tell you about it. I have such admiration for this gifted author and his books that make children their focus. He seems to know exactly how they think and respond to variety in circumstance, always creating wondrous books that anticipate that response.

I will not belabor the point that this is a book that needs to be shared, and then shared again and again. But, I will tell you a bit about it. Then, you can get out and find a copy for yourself. You need to do that.

A young duckling finds a book, notes that it has no words and, as the story begins, disgustedly throws it away. Love of books hastens an apology and the book is picked up once more. Making headway with the difficulty that is early reading, the duckling finds that visualizing what is being read is authentic and real. What joy children find in reading meaningful books that offer such pleasure!

As children do when allowed to read what matters, the duckling literally enters the world of words - this one is pure Sergio Ruzzier. It is filled with wonderful spreads that show the meaning the duckling is making for the words he recognizes. Playing with light and shadow, the artist evokes an emotional response to the joy felt by the ducking. The landscape changes with each success in recognizing familiar words. If you know other books by the very talented Mr. Ruzzier, you will recognize this new world - lovely hues, lively action, quirky characters, and a wonderfully distinctive style. Do NOT miss the endpapers!

Please read the following before you leave this page ...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Truth About Jellyfish, written by Ali Benjamin. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2015. $20.50 ages 12 and up

"One day, she showed us a video in which a scientist described what he called "the most astounding fact," which was that all living things are composed of the atoms of collapsed stars. The stars themselves were inside us. We are made out of stardust. And that reminded me of what Mrs. Turton had told us about how we were all walking around with bits of Shakespeare inside us."

For Suzy, it is as if two deaths have occurred. First, the end of her friendship with Franny and then, Franny's death by drowning while on vacation.

The girls are going to be in seventh grade; things have been changing big time. Franny has been choosing not to spend time with the talkative, slightly awkward Suzy, once her best friend and now, not so interesting in comparison to boys and the popular girls. Suzy's outward response to truly losing her best friend and to her parents' divorce is to become invisible - she no longer speaks. Inwardly, she is searching for answers to why a first class swimmer like Franny could lose her life in the calm water she loved, and to her confusion over her family's new reality. She becomes adamant that a venomous jellyfish she sees on a school field trip must be to blame - after all, a jellyfish sting happens to people 23 times every 5 seconds.

Wanting to confer with an expert, Suzy makes an attempt to visit with a jellyfish scientist in Australia. The plan is risky, its realization impossible. Her tenacity and intelligence stand her in good stead, her age is a barrier to so much that she would like to accomplish. Everything unravels for her, and her silence is broken. Our chance to listen to her very real voice as she thinks critically about her friend's death and the possible reason for it will encourage discussion and response from middle grade readers.

This debut novel is filled with heart. Ali Benjamin tackles important issues: divorce, death, drama, diversity, scientific discovery and research, the natural world, grief, friendship, social isolation, and ultimately, healing. She works so seamlessly to create a place for Suzy in our hearts and to allow adolescent readers a chance to find themselves within its pages. Bravo!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pax, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2016. $21.00 ages 9 and up

"Pax had been confused by this fear - the small woman was projecting nothing but kindness and concern. She kept repeating the word Pax had already come to associate with his boy -"Peter' - in a pleading tone. The man's full-teeth welcome smile remained frozen in place, but the room had flooded with the bitter scent of deception as he answered her."

Two voices, clearly shared in alternating chapters, give Sara Pennypacker's novel an immediacy that is sure to help this book find its way into the hearts of many middle grade readers. Once started, I didn't put it down until I was hugging it tightly and wanting to start the reading all over again.

The opening is heartbreaking:

"And sure enough, the boy held the toy soldier aloft and then hurled it into the woods. The fox's relief - they were only here to play the game! - made him careless. He streaked towards the woods without looking back at his humans. If he had, he would have seen the boy wrench away from his father and cross his arms over his face, and he would have returned. Whatever his boy needed - protection, distraction, affection - he would have offered."

It is a powerful story about a fox (Pax) and his rescuer (Perer). Theirs are the voices we hear so clearly in this beautifully written tale of friendship and unconditional love. We have met foxes in many other stories, including others this year. Pax will be long remembered, as are so many others ... smart, loyal and knowing. Reeling from the death of his mother five years ago and in need of companionship, Peter found Pax in the cold and takes pity on his plight. Pax is raised with love as a pet. When Peter's father realizes that war is imminent and with it, inherent danger for his son, he decides that Pax will be returned to the wild while Peter will go to live with his grandfather.

In quick time, not being content to leave Pax alone and feeling tremendous guilt for abandoning him, Peter sets out on a sometimes harrowing journey to find his beloved companion again. As we travel the endless miles with Peter, we are also aware through Pax's voice of the trust and love the fox has for the boy while he acclimates to a wild he has never known. We are sure they will find each other. It is not an easy journey.

It is a tale of survival, friendship, violence, death and redemption. Pax and Peter encounter helpful characters who make their world a very different place. Peter's meeting Vola is opportune and life-changing. The ending is poignant, yet hopeful ... and perfect!
Jon Klassen's use of both Peter's and Pax's profile to open each alternating chapter, and the wonderful illustrations he has created to accompany the telling is proof positive that he is the perfect illustrator for the job at hand."

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cry, Heart, But Never Break. Written by Glenn Ringtved and illustrated by Charlotte Pardi. Translated from Danish by Robert Moulthrop. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2016. $24.95 ages 5 and up

"Time passed.
Finally, Death was ready. He
placed his bony hands over his
cup to signal "no more." Then
Leah, who had been watching
Death all night, reached out and
took his hand.
"Oh, Death," she said, "our
grandmother is so dear to us,
why does she have to die?"

The four children live with their grandmother, surrounded by love and kindness. She has been their caregiver for a number of years and their life is good. When a visitor comes to the door - a tall visitor dressed all in black and carrying a scythe - they know that their grandmother's time has come. Death is upon her.

The children look on in great sadness. Death does not seem any too happy either - stooped over the kitchen table and evidently not pleased with the task at hand. After accepting their offer of coffee in an attempt to forestall their Grandmother's demise, Death assures the children that they have nothing to worry about it concerning his demeanor.

"Some people say Death's heart is as dead and black as a piece of coal,
but that is not true. Beneath his inky cloak, Death's heart is as red as
the most beautiful sunset and beats with a great love of life."

Death uses a story to help explain what is happening to their grandmother, and that it is her time. It is a story of Joy and Delight, of Sorrow and Grief. The four met, fell in love, spent their lives in happiness and all died on the same day. It is the way of things.

"... What would life be worth
if there were no death? Who would enjoy
the sun if it never rained? Who would
yearn for day if there was no night?"

Death is not a subject easily talked about with children; yet, they have an innate understanding of the way that the world works and have a great capacity for acceptance. Kids who must face the loss of a loved one can find solace in books (and conversations) that help them see they are not alone in such sorrow. The intense sadness felt is inevitable and cannot be resisted, rather allowed. That experience becomes a part of life as it is lived.

I'm not convinced that this is a book to be read with a group. One-on-one with a child who is dealing with the death of a loved one would seem most appropriate, I think. Allowing time for any discussion that might arise would surely be helpful to the one grieving.

"Cry, heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life."

It is a gentle, and reassuring way to introduce a difficult, yet inevitable, topic.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, written by Katherine Rundell. Simon & Schuster, 2014. $10.99 ages 9 and up

"So we waited until it was all arranged. We? Will's head rang with the word. It meant that Captain Browne had joined in the plan to snatch Will's heart out of her chest and hurl it halfway across the world. And Cynthia Browne was not capable of understanding a creature like Will. Will had never, and would never, "stamp and scream". In anger she became rigid, and hushed, and lethal."

As I read this breathtaking and hopeful story, I found myself immersed in Will's homeland, Zimbabwe and then again, in London. Both are familiar to the author and she ensures that neither is a place of mystery;  rather, Africa is colorful and vibrant and as much a character as it can be while London is cold, urban and ultimately, home once again.

After leaving England to live in Zimbabwe, it is the home that Will and her parents love with all their hearts. It is wild, as is Will. It is alive with wildlife that fascinates Will, with friendship and adventure, and with mostly friendly people. Will lives her early life with passion, with independence, and without fear. It is a wonder to watch her as she makes her way through her days, loving and well loved.

Tragedy strikes, leaving her with one option ... boarding school back in England. Returning to London is a shock and for the most part, heartbreaking. It is a profound change for a brilliant and capable child. Her feelings of homesickness are harrowing and ring so true. Harassed by the other girls for being different, and hating her bleak existence, Will takes matter into her own hands.

She runs away, bent on living on her own in London. Her encounters with an assortment of people throughout the story guide her through the golden sunshine of Zimbabwe and the bleakness of her London existence. These characters are central to her finding her way through those dark times and back to the light. The personal relationships will live with the reader long after the cover is closed.

The writing is so beautiful. What a talent Ms. Rundell is!

Once rescued from the London streets, Will shares her love of Zimbabwe and her life there with Daniel's grandmother.

"I don't ... I can't describe it. Imagine if there's just trees, ja, and grass and boys and bats, ja, and warthogs, and dragonflies. And nobody hates you. And you could run, ja, or ride, for miles, and if you got lost, the women just gave you mangoes and aspirin and directions - and once, I fell out of a tree, and they gave me a ridgeback, to keep, ja. You can't know." Will discovered her face was turning red with the rubbing, and sat on her hands." It was like living in pure blue."

Please find a copy and spend a few hours with Will. It is a brilliant book not to be missed.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Secret Subway, written by Shana Corey and illustrated by Red Nose Studio. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2016. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"Now a new army of workers arrived carrying paintbrushes and plaster, curtains and mirrors. When they were done, Devlin's basement resembled a fairyland. Perfect! thought Alfred Ely Beach. It was time to share his secret. A few days later ... "

Have you ever stopped to consider the origin of the subway system in New York City? If you have not, as I had not, this is an account that you are sure to find most interesting.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Alfred Ely Beach had a great idea!
Why not build an underground train in New York City to avoid all the congestion and noise to be found above the ground?

With permission to build two pneumatic mail tubes, he began. He did that; he also designed a short working subway that would run from one Manhattan street to another. He had a short tunnel built, used a single car, added the machinery that would make it move pneumatically and voila! a new method of getting from one place to another ... all below the ground. The tunnel was purposefully short and meant to show the political machine it could be successful.

History is alive with grand ideas that have only minimal success. Beach's idea was brilliant, and forward thinking. Unofficially, Boss Tweed had great power at the time and was able to put a stop to any such project. In telling the story, Shana Corey brings history, science, corruption and secret doings to the forefront in descriptive, clear text that is as informative as it is fascinating to her intended audience.

Immediately remove the book jacket to get a step-by-step look at the artist's process for creating the incredible illustrations that so perfectly match the author's text. What amazing work it is! The attention to detail will have readers poring over each and every page, often returning to favorites for continued enjoyment. The vintage photos used as backdrops are a visual delight and add depth for understanding the city at the time.
An author’s note offers a bit more detail, and leads to the opening of the famed subway system in 1904. A suggested bibliography and a list of Internet sources will be helpful to those wanting to know more.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dumplin', written by Julie Murphy. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2015. $21.99 ages 12 and up

"I sigh into the phone and it feels so good to not be chastised for it. Then I tell her. I tell her about Mom calling me Dumplin' in front of the carport, with all the freshmen and Patrick Thomas standing around, waiting for the first bell to ring. I tell her about the incident in the hallway, and how I'd never been made to feel so small for being so large. She curses and coos ... "

Willowdean is 16 and not fazed by her size when we first meet her. She's fat, and that's that! Her mother, on the other hand, is not so willing to be accepting of her daughter's stance on size. She is a previous winner of the Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, and lives in past glory of that revered win. Every year she diets to get into her old dress, puts pressure on Will to lose weight, and cannot comprehend why her daughter is not willing to do so.

While her mother is consumed with all things pageant, Will is busy with her own life. She is grieving the death of her much-loved Aunt Lucy, spending time with her best friend Ellen, harboring a crush on one of her co-workers, and being her own best self. High school is not easy for anyone who is 'different' from their peers. Will is a brilliant character, realistic and vulnerable. She is not afraid to stand up for herself or for others. Yet, she is just as self-conscious as every other teenager when it comes to awareness of body image. Is any one of us every happy with the way we look?

Will lives her life as best she can, and that is the focus of her story. The relationship between Will and Ellen has changed. Though they have grown up together and know each other better than anyone else does, it does not ensure a lack of conflict. As with all close relationships, they come to a point where circumstance results in misunderstanding and hurt. What will it take for them to see their way back to what they once had?

Her friendship with the pageant girls fills a void for her. They all have issues and bond over them. The four of them decide that they have as much right to be pageant contestants as anyone does; they enter their names. Getting to know each one of them is great fun as they are worthy of attention and the reader's admiration. They are unlike most characters we meet in young adult literature.

And then, there's Bo. He's hot, he is a co-worker, and he is not perfect. Who is? As they get to know one another better, he is honest about his past and also his feelings for Will. It makes Will uncomfortable knowing the kind of reaction they will get should they let others know how they feel.
Her confidence wavers; the results are funny, heartfelt, and helpful in making her realize her true potential. She is an awesome character. You will love her!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Missing Nimama, written by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Francois Thisdale. Clockwise Press, 2015. $19.95 ages 10 and up

"Thank you, nimama.
Thank you for taking on my
child, though you were
finished raising your own
years ago. Thank you for
cooking and cleaning and
doing laundry and buying
birthday gifts and drying
tears. For loving her
unconditionally. Thank
you for telling Kateri about me."

Kateri has grown up in the loving presence of her nohkom after losing her mother, Aiyana Cardinal.
Aiyana is one of the missing indigenous women of Canada, presumed to have died a violent death. No body has been found. Kateri loves her grandmother, and has lived a good life with her. But, she longs to see and talk with her mother again. All she has left are memories and images that remind her of the woman who called her 'little butterfly'.

As she grows older, she realizes that her mother is gone and not coming back. The sadness felt by all three members of the family is palpable throughout the reading. The mother voices her feelings as we watch grandmother and granddaughter live a life that the mother no longer shares with them. She is ever grateful for the care given and the knowledge that, although she can no longer care for her daughter, the two left are happy together and her daughter is flourishing.

The alternating voices and the story they tell of loss and grief are a fitting tribute to the almost 1200 Aboriginal women who are counted as missing or murdered in Canada over the past thirty five years. A glossary of terms, further background information, and a connection to an educator's guide are valuable for those sharing Kateri's story.

Many important issues are presented within the story's context ... first and foremost, the loss of so many beloved women to their families and communities. It also celebrates the Cree language and the relationship between the three women. Focusing on one of the women and the impact of her loss on her young daughter as she moves from one of life's milestones to the next gives immediacy for listeners and opens discussion on loss and grief and hopefully, aboriginal truth and reconciliation.

Francois Thisdale proves his mettle with difficult issues once again, illustrating this fine story with
a healthy dose of hope and allowing us to see to the heart of it. Engaging, while also thoughtful, his images offer many opportunities for discussion.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ideas Are All Around, by Philip C. Stead. Roaring Brook, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $21.99 all ages

on a small log
is a painted turtle
sitting very still
in a pocket of sunshine

His name is Frank.

"Hello, Frank!" I say.
And like each time before
he makes quick for the dark water"

I am not an artist, as I have mentioned in many past posts. I admit that I often wonder where ideas come from to the incredible artists who make illustrated books for children; it is a question I share with many of those same children. Philip Stead, in this new book, helps us to understand that ideas are not always front and center.

This first person narrative begins with the man wanting to write a story ... the ideas just won't come. Thought stalking is a sure fire method to get the brain thinking about other things, allowing a clearer look at the problem. I use it all the time to help me focus. I credit Flavia de Luce, child detective extraordinaire with the idea. In A Red Herring Without Mustard (Bradley, 2011), she explains:

 "I had long ago discovered that when a word or formula refused to come to mind, the best thing for it was to think of something else: tigers, for instance, or oatmeal. Then, when the fugitive word was least expecting it, I would suddenly turn the full blaze of my attention back onto it, catching the culprit in the beam of my mental torch before it could sneak off again into the darkness.
"Thought-stalking," I called the technique, and I was proud of myself for having invented it."

In keeping with Flavia's idea about distraction and discovery, the artist goes for a walk with his dog and comes to appreciate once more all that is life. As they go, he is reminded that there is a lot we take for granted. As he and Wednesday walk, they make new connections to what is often overlooked. They notice graffiti on nearby walls, ducks on a pond and a turtle, the lineup for food at the soup kitchen and they have a visit with a happy, thoughtful neighbor. It is a lovely reminder that time is ours and we choose how to use it. There is much to consider as they note the commonplace.

Using drawings, prints, collage and even Polaroid snapshots, he fills his journal with recollections of this journey. They will provide a focus for his new story. As we watch the two return home, we can see in their wake all those things they have noticed and discussed while out for their walk. The animals are depicted vividly, while the humans are not recognizable as anyone in particular. The blue horse is a standout, reminding me of Eric Carle's wonderful book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse (2011). If your children don't know that book, now might be a good time to share it and make the connection. Older readers with an interest in art may want to learn more about Franz Marc and his original painting.

This is on my pile of favorite books so far this year. With each new read, I see more and have a better understanding of the creative process. The next time I want to talk with kids about the block that most artists experience at  one time or another, I have the perfect book to share with them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thunder Boy Jr. Written by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2016. $21.49 ages 5 and up

"Don't get me wrong.
My dad is awesome.
But I don't want to have
the same name as him.


I want a name that sounds
like me."

Are there many of us who have not, at one time or another, had a fervent wish for a different name? The boy narrator of this wonderful and very funny book is named after his dad, Big Thunder. He is a Junior; most refer to him as Little Thunder. He doesn't like it, and he makes a case for having any other name than that. He wants his own name, one with pizazz and meaning. While his take on the situation is often humorous in its presentation, his story has a lot to say about the relationship between fathers and sons, family traditions, independence and ownership.

"I love playing in the dirt,
so maybe my name should be


Finally, it is Dad who suggests that his son should have a more appropriate name - one that is his alone. Sherman Alexie's first picture book will surely not be his last. While a departure from his previous work, it is also filled with heart and humor. Readers will love it!

Yuyi Morales' illustrations are described as having been 'made from the remains of an antique house in Xalalpa, Mexico, where Yuyi now has her studio and where she created this book. When the rotting roof and some of the walls came down, she picked out old wood as well as clay bricks that she later scanned and used their colors and textures to digitally paint the illustrations." Artists are an amazing lot! I wish that each book I share here had such a description of the artist's process for creating the work we so admire.

The colors are bold, the thick black outlines make them stand out on the page, giving them a three-dimensional quality, and they are full of expression. Ms. Morales brings glorious life to this young native boy and his family as he shares his dismay and discontent.  Speech balloons, changing fonts, and action-filled pages are sure to appeal. I guarantee that you will be asked to read this lively, thoughtful book again and again.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Great American Whatever, by Tim Federle. Simon & Schuster, 2016. $22.99 ages 15 and up

"This is the kind of hangover people write horror movies about, movies that are never funded because they're too graphic. If you don't know what a hangover feels like, congrats. You are smarter than I am. It's like a sledgehammer eloped with a swing set and they honeymooned in your head. I lift my foot to turn the water on with my toe, and after it cools down a bit, I let it drench my legs."

Quinn Roberts is an aspiring screenwriter. He shares his vision with his older sister, who acts as director for his movies. When Annabeth dies in a car accident, Quinn and his mother are consumed by their grief. His mother uses food to assuage her sadness, while Quinn sleeps through his days and nights, and never leaves the house.

After allowing Quinn time to deal with the very real sadness that is keeping him from a return to a normal teenage life, it's best friend Geoff to the rescue! He insists that Quinn get out of his bed and out of the house - what better distraction than his first college party. New people, new focus - all for the best. Quinn is a reluctant attendee. When he meets an older and very attractive college guy, he feels his world shift. Maybe Geoff is right. His attraction to Amir and the time they spend together allows Quinn to find new interest in the world.

I love Quinn - he is funny, committed to his craft and always observant. His voice is clear and personal, not stereotypical in any way. People from his past have changed. A big reveal threatens his relationship with Geoff. Through it all Quinn learns about himself, his future and the nature of true friendship and first love, with all of its flaws.

His imaginary screenplay scenes are worthy of attention and provide distraction and humor in the face of the more serious issues of death, grief, coming out, secrets and self-absorption. I think you will develop a memorable admiration for Quinn. You will surely want to read his story!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The White Cat and the Monk, written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Sidney Smith. Groundwood. 2016. $18.95 ages 4 and up

'I treasure the wealth to be
found in my books.

Pangur has his own pursuit,
his game of chase and catch.
The silent hunter, he sits and
stares at the wall.

He studies the hole
that leads to the
mouse' s home."  

There is an old Irish poem called Pangur Ban. This lovely, evocative book retells its story in elegant text that reminds readers it is possible to be content with little. The monk and the cat seem perfect companions, each engaged in their own separate pursuits and happy with their lot in life. The monk watches the cat closely,  comparing the delights each finds in the day, while not needing the same things in any way. The monk is intent on his books, the cat intent on its prey. There is no competition. 

The message is perhaps an observation on life as many live it today ... always impatient for more. After watching the cat go about its daily work with purpose and satisfaction, the monk feels great satisfaction in the life they share.

Sydney Smith's glorious artwork begins the telling with wordless opening spreads that show the cat as it arrives at the monastery and makes its way to the monk's door. He then  moves the story through the musings of the monk as he quietly contemplates the way the two go about their work:

“By candle’s light, late into the night, we work, each at a special trade.” 

As the monk works diligently with aging eyes, Mr. Smith creates a memorable image of an old man bent over the work at hand. In each succeeding spread, we are witness to the success that each experiences and the pleasure found in small, necessary pursuits. Mr. Smith's watercolor and ink illustrations perfectly match the quiet content of two lives shared

This is one of those lovely picture books that is perfect in its execution, blending words and illustrations with excellence and great wonder. Would that we all pursue such joy and enjoy the contentment of a day well lived. It needs a place on your book shelf. 


Saturday, June 11, 2016

That Squeak, written by Carolyn Beck and illustrated by Francois Thisdale. Ftizhenry & Whiteside, 2015. $18.95 ages 10 and up

"It's real late. All the other kids have grabbed their bikes and scooted home. Clouds are bunching dark and low. I should just take my bike and try to beat the rain. But instead I reach for the handlebar of your bike. Dull metal like the sky. Not like you. You are shiny. I press my hand against the seat. There's that squeak."

Joe and Jay love to ride their bikes out on country roads. They explore the natural world that surrounds them and spend time together just talking. Jay rides his Monster Man; Joe rides his Red Devil, which has a distinctive squeak. Their summer is filled with glorious adventure.

School begins again. The boys ride their bikes every day and chain them up to keep them safe until the final bell sounds. The two adventurers are off for more exploration. October 4 is a day etched in Joe's memory as it is the day his best friend dies. Following Jay's funeral, his bike remains chained to the school bike rack. Joe cannot bear to take it home. As he deals with the grief of losing his friend, he can finally make the decision to ride Jay's bike. Unfortunately, after a lack of use and some weathering, he cannot get it unlocked. The new boy Carlos steps in to help.

Joe wants nothing to do with Carlos, making a sweeping judgement about Carlos' reason for providing aid. He thinks Carlos is a thief and wants the bike only for himself. He could not be further from the truth.

Carlos helps return the bike to its shiny self, while Joe harbors some resentment. Eventually, he realizes that Carlos is just being a good friend, exactly what Joe needs now.

Carolyn Beck does a remarkable job of penning a worthy book about loss and friendship. Her words are quiet and emotional, never overpowering. Older readers will find much to ponder as the sensitive story is shared.

Francois Thisdale's impressive art is striking in its unwavering look at the friendship and the overwhelming sadness felt when Joe loses his best friend. The warmth of the countryside, the joy felt in time spent together, the growing friendship between Carlos and Joe add much context to a beautifully told tale. It is worthy of our attention.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

SWAP! Written and illustrated by Steve Light. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $22.00 ages 3 and up

"A button....

An idea.

Let's SWAP!

One button for
two teacups.

He has an old rundown boat, a button and a good friend! Lucky sea captain that he is, they are all that he really needs. The young boy with a peg-leg wants to help his friend, and he knows what a good 'swap' is. Beginning with the button, and making their way around a series of islands, they are able to trade what they have for what they need to get the boat back in running order. They even manages to add some style.

Steve Light creates such amazing detailed spreads to inspire conversation and new learning. Using sharp black lines, leaving adequate white space and color only where necessary, he fills his pages with humor, warmth and the bonds of strong, true friendship. The story is inspiring in its message that we don't need money to make a good life ... just a little ingenuity and a will to make things better. It pays to be smart and honest.

You will recognize his work if you were lucky enough to share Have You Seen My Dragon? (2014) and Have You Seen My Monster? (2015). The story told is clever and heartwarming, leaving readers with a totally different look at seafarers. They are not your average sea-going pirates. Listeners and readers play a role as they echo the often repeated "SWAP!" to power the tale to its satisfying conclusion.

You will return to the book repeatedly to see what you missed the last time. Take care to see what the cover and endpapers have to offer. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown. Little Brown and Company, Hachette. 2016. $20.49 ages 8 and up

"... I do want him to survive," said the robot. "But I do not know how to act like a mother. "Oh, it's nothing, you just provide the gosling with food and water and shelter, make him feel loved but don't pamper him too much, keep him away from danger, and make sure he learns to walk and talk and swim and fly and get along with others and look after himself. And that's really all there is to motherhood!"

Take an island replete with all that is needed by its many animal inhabitants, and put a little wrinkle into their content and happy lives ... perhaps not such a little wrinkle! How about we make it a robot, a fairly large robot appropriately named Roz (after all,  she is a part of a series named ROZZUM, and she is unit 7134). There you have the makings for a unique and wonderful middle grade novel.

If there is any luck involved it is that Roz is the only computer of the 500 that were washed ashore on a rocky island coast to be intact. Frolicking sea otters are curious and accidentally activate her. Poor Roz! She has no idea where she is, or what she is meant to do. She does have an ability to think, and to adapt to her environment. So, she begins doing just that. The animals of the island are terribly frightened by what they do not know ... and back off. The first casualties of her lumbering gait and insecurity in her new surroundings are a nest of geese. The one egg that has not yet hatched suddenly does and chooses Roz as his caregiver. It is through her relationship with Brightbill that Roz learns so much.

Her ability to help, and to look for answers to questions she has, stands her in good stead with the island animals. She looks to them for guidance as she tries to do her best for the young gosling, dependent on her for much teaching. Caring for the gosling, seeking help from the island community and trying to do what she is meant to do - help - allows a slow and warm relationship to develop. When that way of life is threatened, the entire group works together for the greater good. 

I love the way that Peter Brown builds a strong and united community without having any of the animals lose their identity or their natural instincts. He gives voice to each in unique ways, validating the part they play in their island home. Readers will definitely grow to love Roz ... of that, there is no doubt.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring, written by Maureen Fergus and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff. Groundwood, 2016. $ 16.95 ages 5 and up

"They hadn't gone far
before Earl saw something
amazing. "Look, Buddy -
a silvery lake in the shadow
of a great mountain!" he
exclaimed. "That is my new
water dish in the shadow
of the garbage pail, "
said Buddy. "Last one
in is a rotten egg!" whooped
Earl ... "

It's great to see Buddy and Earl again so soon. I had great fun sharing their first book in classrooms this spring. The storytelling is smart and humorous, and kids loved hearing the misunderstandings the two shared. This second story happens at night, after everyone else is in bed. Buddy has had a busy day and is ready for rest. Earl is on a totally different page. He has big plans for the middle of the night

He convinces Buddy that a voyage is a worthy pursuit. Off the two go to grapple with all the dangers of the kitchen, including the garbage can, water bowl, a purse and even a vacuum cleaner. Earl is definitely the leader, while Buddy follows with some concern for the way things are going. Earl is enthusiastic and up for every perceived adventure. Buddy is great company and willing to attempt to look at the world that Earl sees.

They are an unlikely pair, but they are great friends. The impending dangers of adventure do not deter Buddy. He sees their world as the audience sees it, knowing that the water dish is not really the lake Earl envisages. He suspends his own intuition to be Earl's partner. In the end, when the kitchen looks like a cyclone hit it and both pets have found comfort in their usual places for a good night's rest, the family is left to ponder what events might have led to such chaos overnight.

Carey Sookocheff creates illustrations that help the audience see what is really happening from both sides of the escapades. She uses shades of night: brown, grey, purple and blue. They manage to convey the normalcy of the family kitchen, as well as the grand adventures conjured in Earl's mind. The young reader's understanding of all that is happening in the art is very effective for discussing visual literacy with children.

Raymie Nightingale, written by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $20.00 ages 10 and up

"And then she thought how if fairy tales people got three wishes and none of the wishes ever turned out right. If the wishes came true, they came true in terrible ways. Wishes were dangerous things. That was the idea you got from fairy tales.

Maybe it was smart of Beverly not to wish."

I could barely contain my excitement when I knew that Raymie Nightingale would soon arrive. When it did, and despite the height of my TBR pile, I sat down and got right to the reading. I didn't stop until I closed the cover and hugged it to my chest. She's done it again, that Kate DiCamillo!

Raymie is only ten when her father leaves the family to run away with a dental hygienist. His abandonment leaves a hole in Raymie's heart and a sense of purpose in her being. She plans on getting him back. As you might expect, her mother cannot help with advice, nor can her father's secretary. Raymie focuses on what she has learned from her life-saving coach. She will be a problem solver.  The way is clear - enter a contest, win and get your picture in the paper. Her father is sure to be impressed and will want to be back home with his famous daughter once more.

With no obvious talent to help her win the contest, Raymie signs up for baton lessons. There she meets two equally determined contestants.  Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski have also lost parents. All three are trying to find their way through that loss by taking action that will allow them to move toward a better place. Although that is all they have in common to begin with, they cement a strong bond and a lasting friendship through their interactions and their willingness to protect each other.

Louisiana dubs them The Three Rancheros, and astounds with her motto: "We'll rescue each other." Truer words were never spoken. Each adventure cements their need to be together and to assure that the others are supported and saved.

Ms. DiCamillo's new novel is so beautifully and simply written, in a third person narrative that is both spirited and haunting. It encourages its readers to think deeply about life issues, while also helping them to believe in miracles. Through her new friends, Raymie finds a path that helps her see more clearly her world and how she fits within it.

A wonderful cast of characters, brilliant writing, wry humor, and a story that will pull at the heartstrings and leave readers with a stronger sense of themselves, this is a book not to be missed.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Maybe A Fox, wirtten by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster. 2016. $22.99 ages 10 and up

"She felt a strong tug right in the middle of her stomach, as if she had her own invisible line pulling her from the porch to the woods. It caught her off guard. She thought that if she stood up, she might lose her balance. She gripped the step she was sitting on, thinking that if she let go, she might fly away. Was this how a burning wish felt? None of her other wishes ever felt like this."

Jules is 11, and loves rocks. Her sister Sylvie is 12, and loves running. They live with their father in the woods of rural Vermont. Their mother died when the girls were very young. The girls were alone when their mother collapsed and Sylvie had to run for help. Nothing could be done to help her.

The girls have clear instructions from their protective father about being ready to catch their school bus on time and staying safe when he is not with them.

"Do not get out of earshot of the house.
Do not mess with wild animals.
Do not miss the bus.
Do not, under any circumstances, go near the Slip."

One early morning, following a snowfall, the girls go outside in their pajamas (a do not that is not on Dad's list) to build a new tiny snow family. Sylvie decides that the beginning of the trail to the Slip is the best place for it. Once their task is complete, Sylvie sets off to run an errand. Jules knows she cannot stop her. The audience learns something more about the two:

"Jules and Sylvie had never, not once, missed the
bus, but what their dad didn't know was that they
had gone to the Slip dozens of times, hundreds
of times, too many times to count. It wasn't that
far from their house, not far at all, just down the
trail through the woods. They knew the trail, they
knew the sound of the Whippoorwill River's
tumbling water, and mostly, they knew just how
close they could get to the water's edge."

On that morning when Sylvie takes off running, she doesn't come back. Those who love her are left to believe that she must have tripped and fallen into the Slip and washed down into the river. On that same day a fox kit named Senna is born. As we follow her, we learn that her instincts have her watching out for Jules and doing her best to keep Jules safe. A sign of good luck to Jules, she is always happy to catch even a glimpse of the tiny vixen.

This convincing tale will leave an indelible mark on your heart. It is a picture of grief, and the comfort that comes from family, friendship, and nature. It introduces strong characters who are grieving as Jules and her father are - Sam, Elk, Zeke, Mrs. Harless. In an alternating voice we come to know the fox family and Senna, a spirit animal whose thoughts and actions are shared seamlessly as they intersect with what is happening to Jules. Although incredibly sad, it is also hopeful as longed-for events happen and are captured in memorable scenes meant to help readers understand and accept the journeys people must make in the face of great loss, and the connections we have through a love of nature.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles, written by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, with illustrations by Meilo So. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2016. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Mr. J had told us to use our own eyes, so that night Mom and I went back to the beach. As darkness fell, we could see bright lights winking on, one by one, along the shore. "THAT'S IT!" I said. "THE LIGHTS IN THE BEACH HOUSES ARE THE PROBLEM."

Kids can make a difference ... a big one! We read time and time again about young people choosing projects of importance, then mobilizing friends and community to take action. In this book, meant to encourage such behaviors, we meet Vivienne, a new arrival to a South Carolina oceanside town.

Her attendance at a summer school for outdoor activities gets her involved in searching for a 'community action project'. She searches high and low as she bikes around town. It is a Saturday visit to the beach that inspires her to learn more about a 'loggerhead turtle nesting area'. Clementine, another summer school attendee, explains some of the difficulties that baby sea turtles have in finding their way to safety in the water.

Vivienne has much to learn. A dead baby sea turtle headed away from the water sparks an idea when Vivienne and her mother stroll the beach that same night. She thinks she might know why the tiny turtle was going the wrong way! The solution is evident; the problems may be insurmountable.

She and Clementine share their thoughts with their class on Monday morning. A community project is born! They do their research:

"First we gathered lots of information. We read books.
We visited an aquarium and a sea turtle hospital.
We asked someone from the South Carolina Marine
Turtle Conservation Program to speak to our class.
We all brainstormed solutions, choosing the best ideas."

What powerful learning for each one of them! As they put their plan into action, they learn even more than they might have hoped. The culmination of a lot of hard work is heartily cheered by all.

Meilo So's unmistakable and stunning watercolors make the audience feel part of Vivienne's new surroundings. The paintings are emotional, informative and full of details that enhance the storytelling.  The text is informative and inspiring, sure to encourage young readers to think about a summer project they might undertake. After reading it, they should be able to make a clear plan of action for themselves.

Should they need further incentive, back matter includes Philippe Cousteau's letter to young activists, a note for parents and teachers, additional facts about loggerheads and other sea turtles, rules for walking on nesting beaches, and other resources.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Flora and the Peacocks, written and illustrated by Molly Idle. Chronicle, Raicoast. 2016. $24.99 ages 3 and up

One girl.

Two peacocks.

A dance with one.

One left out.

Can three become
friends and dance

I assume that you have met Flora in two previous books. She has danced with a flamingo, and then a penguin. One was a dance of friendship, the other one that shows friends can like two very different things. This time, there are two peacocks. If you have experience with friendship and the number three, you will know that someone always seems to be on the receiving end of 'left out'!

Flora shows a bit of anxiety as she shares this new stage with the two peacocks. Turn the next flaps down, as we did with Flora's, and we meet the daunting duo. Flora makes a bow of introduction. The peacocks look on. Flora bows more deeply. The penguins deign to show interest in the young dancer. Well, one does! The other remains on its side of the spread, back turned ... while Flora attempts a pas de deux.

Flora is a kind and gentle soul, unhappy with leaving one penguin out. As she attempts to make things right with one, the other is annoyed. So it goes. Pulled from one side of the stage to the other and using her fan as the instrument for a tug-of-war, the pull is too strong and the fan breaks. Flora walks away, leaving the proud and perplexed peacocks to make amends. They do so with undeniable flair!

Wordless yet telling, the beautifully designed illustrations and carefully conveyed emotions of Ms. Idle's elegant art invite the audience to play a critical role in determining each character's actions. They are left with a brilliant and joyous conclusion.

Once again, I applaud Ms. Idle for her glorious story! Her use of lively color, precise line and an abundance of white space makes for a dramatic tale told brilliantly. Chronicle Books wins abundant praise for the design elements that include flaps and a gorgeous and gargantuan gatefold to end this look at what happens when three players try to make a go of it.

In an interview with Julie Danielson over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Molly Idle had this to say about Chronicle Books:

"I love the folks at Chronicle. They are dedicated to making wonderful, beautiful, different books. And to do that, they pay attention to the smallest details. I’m a believer that the smallest details often make the biggest differences. I’ve been so fortunate to work with art directors, editors, and designers that believe that too. We share a love of simple, elegant design. We also share a love of ego-less collaboration. Whoever has the best idea, it doesn’t matter who thinks of it — that should be the path taken. So there aren’t really rigidly defined boundaries in how we divvy up design. My art director will make editorial notes; I’ll design a different way to engineer a gatefold or flap; my editor will make color palette suggestions. There’s a lot of overlap. There’s a lot of trust. I like that."

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When the Worst Happens: Extraordinary Stories of Survival. Written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and illustrated by David Parkins. Annick, 2014. $14.95 ages 10 and up

"Bruised and battered by the plane crash, Juliane spent one day alone in the Amazon. Then a second. And a third. Cold, wet, and plagued by biting insects, she huddled against the river's gravel banks at night, or curled against the trunk of a tree, drifting in and out of fitful sleep. During the day, the sun baked her skin until her back felt crisp. And every night, she found..
As we watched media reports concerning the plight of the people
of Fort McMurray struggling to come to terms with all that had happened since the beginning of May when the wildfires were first reported, I thought back on this book of survival stories that I recently read. It is absolutely incredible to me how people pull together to make the best of a horrific situation.

In her new book, Tanya Lloyd Kyi writes stories of events that none of us can imagine living through; they did happen, and to real people. Some of those people were children. There are four main stories, interspersed with many others.

Trying to determine what makes the difference between death and survival for those at the center of such horrendous events has been studied over many years. Friendship, moving forward through action, meeting basic needs (air, food, water and sleep), knowing some basic survival skills and staying as positive as possible prove to be invaluable when doing your best to live and then live on.

The four dramatic events include a plane crash, a capsized boat, a mine collapse, and the freezing Arctic waters where a family finds refuge on an ice floe. The author includes chapters on survival and how some people survive while others do not. We are all equipped with the same innate reactions to danger ... commonly called the 'flight or fight or freeze' response. Survival isn't easy. The many stories Ms. Kyi shares are proof positive of that.

Information boxes add interest and pertinent facts. Labelled arrows give guidance toward finding out more about a particular event. Her focus on young people overcoming tremendous odds keeps the audience intent on the stories being told. Green cartoon icons are placed next to text as a reminder of the 'keys to survival' provided at the beginning, and what might work to help. Red icons suggest avoiding those behaviors. It's not always easy to remember what to do when faced with a dangerous and rarely met plight. Being prepared can be helpful.

"As long as people continue to adventure and explore, there will always be risks. There will always be the chance that, someday, we will find ourselves in peril, and we'll need to survive."

Helpful in navigating the book are a table of contents and an index. Also included are a list for further reading and a selected source list.