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Monday, September 30, 2019

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Envrionmentatl Movement. Written and illustrated by Stephanie Roth Sisson. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2019. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"As the days grew longer
and warmer, the chattering,
chirping, and hooting got
louder.

Until the gathering calls from
migrating birds meant that it
was autumn. They were coming together ... "


"In nature, nothing exists alone ... "

As a young child, Rachel woke to birdsong and a strong need to be outside in the natural world that surrounded her. She loved the sounds, the smells, the 'music' of the outdoors. She spent her days in the company of birds, frogs, insects, and her dog. Returning home after a day of discovery, the large family shared supper, music and stories. Rachel loved to hear songs of the sea.

In winter, Rachel made new discoveries outdoors, and drew pictures and wrote stories indoors. Seasons passed, always with careful attention paid. Then, it was time for college and a chance discovery that led her to life found through a microscope.

"To learn about the creatures in tidal
pools, marshes, and the sea, Rachel
decided that she would study biology.
She put her writing aside."

Working as a scientist, Rachel spent a good deal of her time underwater, discovering the secrets of the ocean. This led to combining her love of science with her love of writing. And, people read those books. As she wrote and continued exploring nature, Rachel was alarmed at the lack of sound in the places she so loved. Her careful study of what was happening led her to the discovery that chemicals being used to combat pests were doing much more than intended; they were killing nature's food chains as well. She wrote Silent Spring to sound an alarm. Despite a great deal of skepticism, Rachel's work did have an impact.

"Spring after spring, year after year, people celebrated the Earth and the environment because Rachel showed them how beautiful and precious it is."

Variety in the accompanying artwork encourages readers to stop and think about what is happening on each spread. Speech bubbles provide a cacophony of sound as Rachel finds solace in the natural world. The unusual lack of sound there and the loss of her beloved animals speaks volumes for the changes made by the introduction of poisons the the ecological surroundings. The three food chain depictions are powerful and clearly presented. The illustrations are powerful and enlightening.

An author's note, further notes about each of the double-page spreads (including front and back endpapers), a bibliography, and source notes are appreciated.

Timely? I think so.
                                                                          

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Shouting At The Rain, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Penguin Random House, 2019. $22.99 ages 10 and up

"There's so much I can't say. I
can't tell her how Madre Seal
coming back makes me curl up
and pull the covers under my
chin at night. I can't tell her one
of my best friends has chosen a
new best friend. And I can't tell
Esme that I don't want her to be
my friend; I want her and Henry
to be my mom and dad. I'm glad
they love me, but it feels like
having the light of the sun but ... "

Ms. Hunt gets right to the heart of her strong and memorable tale. Our meeting with Delsie is abrupt. Her friend Aimee blows through the front door, excited about a role in the summer production of Annie. The two have seen the movie together. Aimee wants help in making her performance authentic. Delsie has no idea how she can help.

"So, I don't understand how I can help. Wouldn't
Michael be better?
"No, he can' help me. Not like you can. Michael has ...
a family."
I feel like I've tripped and haven't hit the ground yet.
"Tell me," she says. "What's it like ... really like ... to
be an orphan?"

That is how we learn about Delsie's family circumstance. She has never considered herself an orphan, until now. Yes, her mother did leave her with her grandmother, and has not tried to contact her. But, she has a family. She and Grammy live together, work together, and support one another. It is a new summer, a time when she learns something about life, love, loss, friendship, and the true meaning of family.

Brandy, a friend who returns to their island each summer, has suddenly changed. She wears makeup, has a new rude, haughty friend who takes pleasure in making Delsie look bad. Tressa doesn't like that Delsie doesn't wear shoes, doesn't have money, and lives with her grandmother who cleans motel rooms. And she doesn't like Delsie's new friend, Ronan. Ronan has just moved to live with his father. Brandy does nothing to support Delsie, leaving her heartbroken ... for a time.

 In trying to deal with that hurt, she turns to Ronan. His mother has also abandoned him, sending him to live with his father. As the two spend time together, Ronan gets to know the special people who are Delsie's family on Cape Cod. Her neighbors, her grandmother, her school friends Aimee and Michael, and the cape itself all play an essential role in helping her deal with the betrayal of her former friend, and the worry of her mother abandoning her. They are strong, worthy, and loving characters who readers will find admirable, and memorable.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Summer Green to Autumn Gold: Unleashing Leaves' Hidden Colors, written and illustrated by Mia Posada. Millbrook, Thomas Allen and Son, 2019. $29.99 ages 8 and up

"Many leaves have mixtures
of yellow, orange, red and
brown pigments.

The world is a rainbow of
scarlet and orange, burgundy
and gold.

Soon the stems of the leaves
start to separate from the tree. The wind blows them loose."

The leaves on the trees in my front yard barely had time to begin turning color when a lashing rainstorm sent leaves flying and branches almost bare. The colors and cooler days are the things I love about fall; the wind and sudden dearth of those beautiful leaves is what disappoints me. The colors seem to last only a few days, perhaps weeks if we are very lucky. But, not very long as it turns out again this year.

Explaining the science behind the changes that trees make seasonally is a welcome premise for this gorgeous new book by Mia Posada. You can see its beauty in the book cover above. Endpapers are bold green, and the first double-page spread uses that color and other shades of green to point out to readers a number of the leaves that might be seen in summer.

"From emerald to jade and
every shade between, summer
leaves fill the world with green!"

The author begins with that, explaining why. Chlorophyll is green; chlorophyll also collects energy from the sun to feed the tree and help it grow. There are other colors inside leaves, hidden by the chlorophyll. As the air cools and darkness lengthens, the plant begins getting ready for much colder days and nights ... winter. It no longer needs chlorophyll. That allows the other colors to make an appearance. Thus, we get the beauty of autumn! Finally, trees are bare. They make good use of winter weather to rest in preparation for a new growing season.

Short sentences ensure that just enough information is provided on each spread. The use of scientific terms provide extended learning. Readers will appreciate the fairly simple, yet accurate, explanation for why leaves change color and how that happens. The cut-paper collage and watercolor art helps give context and beauty to any new learning. Observant readers will note the family in some of the images, and see that changing seasons have an effect on their lives as well.

Back matter includes four sections: Different Kinds of Leaves, Pigments in Nature, Fall Colors Around the World and Fall to Fall, Colors Can Change. A glossary and a list of hands-on experiments with leaves and pigments are also provided.
                                                                                 

Friday, September 27, 2019

Acting Wild: How We Behave Like Birds, Bugs, and Beasts. Written by Maria Birmingham and illustrated by Dave Whamond. Owlkids, 2019. $18.95 ages 6 and up

"That's No Laugh
There are two animals that often sound like they're laughing, but it turns out their giggles can be deceiving. The spotted hyena - sometimes called the laughing hyena - makes a noise that sounds like a human cackle. Research has shown, however, that this "laugh" is simply a noise they produce when they're excited, frustrated, or afraid. "

And the other is the Australian kookaburra. It's song sounds like loud laughter. These are only two things you will learn as you pore over the many welcome and enlightening entries in this book. It is filled with the behaviors of creatures whose actions are eerily like many of the things that humans do.

Our narrator is a knowledgeable and verbose ant, whose constant conversation will entertain, inform and, at times, even annoy readers. That is its job! The ant is happy to be our guide through the wilds and to let us know that we are not that special (even if we think we are!).

The journey begins with that reminder, and moves on to talk about farming, education, laughter, death, construction, using tools, conversing, cleanliness, play, teamwork, travel, and ending with a plea for our help with protecting all of this world's creatures. On each double-page spread, the ant provides an introduction to the topic at hand. There follows a series of three short and informative paragraphs that describe those animals that can be compared to humans for their unique abilities. Those are followed by a statement concerning creatures that didn't make an appearance on the page.

"Other animals that mourn: wolves, 
chimpanzees, bison, Atlantic spotted 
dolphins, and giraffes."

Fascinating, and just what intrigued kids need to do further research.  

Dave Whamond does an exceptional job of providing humor in his silly cartoons that depict a tree branch full of scrub jays singing a dirge for a dead jay, termites building a mound as tall as a giraffe and putting it up for sale, and cleaner shrimp in a dentist office flossing a fish's teeth.

The design is well-organized, accessible and inviting. The factual text is well-placed, and the repetition of page layout makes this book enjoyable for the young scientists this book is targeting. Adding that final note about other animals who share the same behaviors is inspired, and is sure to encourage further interest.

A glossary and a list for suggested reading follow.
                                                                         

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys, written by Mike Unwin and illustrated by Jenni Desmond. Bloomsbury, Raincoast. 2019. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"There's a dark stain on the
sea. The lower you fly, the
bigger it seems to get,
stretching for four to nine
miles along the coast. At first
it looks like spilled oil, but
soon you can see that the stain
is moving, heading slowly east.
Aha! It's not oil but fish -
millions and millions of them,
all swimming in one enormous
shoal."

Kids love learning as much as they can about animals. Many are endlessly engaged in books that tell about the many feats of travel these animals make. In Mike Unwin's newest book, he introduces 'animals on the move'.

"Swallows are not the only long-distance travelers.
Many different animals around the world make similar
journeys - crossing mountains, deserts, and oceans
along the way. These journeys are called migrations,
and they happen in many different ways: while birds
fly through the air, elephants trek across the land and
turtles swim through the sea."

Seasonal changes mean these animals have to move to escape harsh weather, to find a better place to find food, and to have babies. The hazards are many and their journeys arduous; yet, they often make the migration year after year. Mr. Unwin describes twenty different animals here. Their stories are fascinating.

On double-page spreads he describes their journeys. The animals are diverse in size, as are their environments.  He includes mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates. Jenni Desmond uses watercolor, acrylic, ink, pencil and pencil crayon to provide exceptional images of the animals, and adds a simple, single paragraph of text of her own. The design is accessible for young readers, with just enough information to satisfy their curiosity.

In back matter a world map traces the migration paths globally, and the author makes a plea to his readers to speak up and help those animals whose natural habitats are being damaged by people.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Penny and Her Sled, by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow, Harper. 2019. $18.50 ages 3 and up

"The days were getting longer.
The days were getting warmer.
Penny still thought about snow
from time to time.
Penny said, "It was fun
to wait for snow
when I thought it would come.
But I do not want to wait
for it anymore."
"You could wait for something
else," said Mama.
"What?" asked Penny."

It's been a long time, Penny. Good to see you again!

Penny  has a new sled, and she can't wait to use it. It is winter. There should be snow soon. She waits at every window. She asks her parents about it. They are sure the snow will come. Her stuffed babies want to see the snow, too. What if she puts her scarf on, and sits in her sled? Or what about wearing mittens to bed?

Nothing works. Still Penny waits as the weeks pass, and the winter weather remains cold, and gray, and damp. No snow. While she can't take her sled out, she can skate, go for walks, drink hot chocolate. But, she cannot go sledding. It's enough to make a young mouse grumpy. 

More time passes, and it seems snow is not going to be part of this winter. Her parents assure that winter will return next year. What a wait that is going to be for an anxious, yearning mouse! Not to be defeated, Penny decides to something else with her sled. Her ideas are original and help to pass the time. Finally, when the days begin to warm and lengthen, Penny decides she can't wait any longer.
Her mom shares a reassuring promise for days to come. Penny is intrigued with the idea of another kind of snow, and decides she will wait to see if her mom is right. Will it be worth it?

Fans will be thrilled to welcome another lovely book in this stellar series for early chapter book readers.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Three Cheers for Kid McGear, written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by A G Ford. Chroniicle Books, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"The tarp comes off.
And there, SURPRISE!
The crew cannot believe 
their eyes:
Five trucks STOP! 
and turn and stare
at the tiny truck that's 
sitting there. 

Clean and shiny, 
all brand-new .... "

This new addition to the Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site series will certainly please fans of the five construction vehicles they have come to know in earlier books.

Kid McGear is new to their site, and the others are not duly impressed. The skid steer may have gumption, but Kid is obviously small and cannot compete in terms of strength and workload with any other vehicle there.

“But you don’t look quite strong enough
to jump in here and do your share...
maybe... just stay over there?”

Kid doesn't get upset. She understands and sits back to watch. That works, until help is needed. As Bulldozer and Excavator lose traction and slide down a muddy, and very steep, slope, it's Kid to the rescue. In a series of well-thought-out moves, Skid brings all of her skills to the forefront, and manages to save the day. It's what all young readers are hoping for.

"Kid rolls downhill, brave and sure,
and wraps each truck, so they're secure.

Kid's giant scissors - power shears -
cut tangled limbs. Then her blade clears.
"Now, we need something," says the Kid,
"to help make sure that they don't skid."

With help from the others, and under Kid McGear's direction, Bulldozer and Excavator are soon back to work. Their crew now numbers six, as they all welcome the tiny and tenacious skid steer.

"Now Kid McGear has joined the crew.
Five old friends - and someone new!

SIX friends in the construction yard,
big and small, all working hard ... "

A.G. Ford is new to the series, but doesn't miss a beat in presenting familiar characters and settings for young fans. The expressive vehicles, the warmth of the palette, and the  detailed, double page spreads offer appeal and call for careful observation.                                                                                    

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Next Great Paulie Fink, by Ali Benjamin. Little, Brown and Company. Hachette. 2019. $22.49 ages 10 and up

" She looks surprised, and I realize this is the first time I've raised my hand at Mitchell. Part of me wants to sit on my hands and shut up, but Mags flashes me the tiniest smile. "Well, so let's say you're one of those lucky ones who happens to get remembered," I say. "The thing is, it's not even you that people are remembering. Not really." Mags looks like she's trying hard to understand, but even I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to say."

Caitlyn is not prepared for a move during the summer. When her mother makes the announcement that she has accepted a new job, Caitlyn is angry and very upset. It's seventh grade and she's been looking forward to being with her friends. When she arrives at Mitchell School on her first day, she realizes it is going to be even worse than she ever thought it could be.

There is only class of each grade at the small school; the seventh graders have mostly been together since kindergarten. They are now the senior class, also called The Originals. That means a couple of things for Caitlyn, First, they are in charge of the school's goat herd under the supervision of their science teacher. Then, she is paired up with one of the kindergartners to act as mentor and supporter as they begin to navigate their new environment.

None of her new classmates bear any resemblance to her former classmates. Everyone at Mitchell displays their eccentricities with pride. Most noticeably, they are unhappy to begin their senior year without Paulie Fink, a former classmate and legend who has not returned.  Paulie stood alone as the lead prankster for the school, and he is greatly missed. After much talk bemoaning his absence, the senior class decides that they need to find a new Paulie Fink.

As the new, and only impartial kid in the class, it is Caitlyn's job to organize the contest and judge the events. As that process begins and moves forward, Caitlyn begins to understand her classmates: their worries, the things that hold great importance for them, and the allure of Paulie Fink himself. Through her own narration, interviews that she does with her classmates and others, and the Ancient Greece assignment given each of them by their English teacher Mags, Caitlyn learns that she has a place in her new school.

The voices are strong, the perspectives different, the social atmosphere an unexpected surprise for Caitlyn, and the changes enormous - that is what makes this such a very unique and uplifting middle grade read.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

In The Sky At Nighttime, written by Laura Deal and illustrated by Tamara Campeau. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $16.95 ages 3 and up

"In the sky at nighttime,
a raven roosts atop a
tall building.

Calling out through the
dark,
he tells others of his find.

In the sky at nighttime,
a mother's delicate song
to her child rises
like a gentle breeze."

This sky at nighttime that seeks to calm little ones as they drift off to sleep is a northern one. Inuit children delight in the darkness that surrounds them as they use their senses to see, hear, and touch the many wonders of a dark landscape. The air is cold, and alive with snowflakes. The Aurora Borealis dance and swirl to their great wonder. The clear night affords a bright, starry sky.

As the lights dance overhead, a hunter's snowmobile beams his own light across the frozen ground while seals gleefully watch him return home. The moon lights the ground as a family makes their way on crunchy snow. The raven calls from a high perch. A mother sings a lullaby before putting her baby to bed, with stuffed toys that include a polar bear, a seal, and a rabbit.

The repeated 'sky at nighttime'  theme brings the sense of calm needed when sleep is near. The illustrations are stunning. They blend old with new in this small northern town. The setting is filled with the bold colors and beauty of the north. There is a deep quiet about it all. Perfect for bedtime reading.

Inhabit Media continues to publish books that honor the north, its inhabitants and its natural beauty. Imagine the delight for children seeing themselves in books, perhaps for the first time! Well done.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Robert Bateman: The Boy Who Painted Nature. Text by Margriet Ruurs anc artwork by Robert Bateman. Orca Book Publishers. 2018. $29.95 all ages

"As Bobby grew into Bob,
he learned the names of plants and animals.
He painted the shapes and
patterns of the world around
him.
He carved wood into birds,
noticing the details of
feathers and form. He drew
tracks of a a deer and followed a rabbit's trail."

Robert Bateman's early life was spent noticing and capturing the beauty in the world around him. Ms. Ruurs describes his days and doings in that natural environment from a very young age. He proved to be an extraordinarily gifted observer of nature, forgoing the things that others his age were doing in pursuit of studying tadpoles, using a field guide to help with the identification of the birds he spied on his long walks, and sketching, sketching, sketching. He noticed variety in color, the way light looked at every time of the day, and dreamt of always discovering more.

As he grew older, he traveled the world. He drew what he saw everywhere he went. He wanted others to see the beauty in what he was seeing. With marriage and the arrival of his children, he turned to teaching, and painting whenever he could. His paintings now hang in galleries, museums, peoples' homes, and corporate offices. They enlighten those who might never have a chance to see the natural wonders of this world. Today, he shows his grandchildren his enduring love on walks through nearby forests.

"He tells them to pay attention to the
details of nature all around them.

He picks up a feather, and when his
grandchildren notice its softness and curve,
he helps them to draw and paint the beauty
of nature." 

Using Mr. Bateman’s notebooks, family-album photographs, and realistic artwork provides the perfect accompaniment to the story told. Ever a conservationist, this book pays homage to his tireless work, his incredible artistic legacy, and his enduing fascination with the world.

The final pages provide additional glimpses into the life of this Officer of the Order of Canada, and recipient of a World Wildlife Fund Member of Honour Award, the Governor General's Award for Conservation and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society Gold Medal.
                                                                         

Friday, September 20, 2019

Hungry Jim, written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Chuck Groenink. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"There he met a dog.
And a dog walker.

"This is awful," cried Jim
as he ran.

"It's big. It's bad. It's truly
the worst."

Jim's stomach only growled
louder."

It's Tuesday. Mom offers pancakes for breakfast. For Jim, it's not a pancake type of day. He's too hungry - and beastly - for pancakes. In fact, when he gets to the kitchen, it's his mother who holds appeal for soothing his hunger. When the deed is done, Jim suffers regret; but he's still hungry. He runs off. His path is filled with numerous tidbits. None assuage his hunger. He continues running until he comes to a stop in a gloomy forest, at the edge of a cliff.

There, he accuses his stomach of persistent growling only to discover the growling is coming from an angry, miserable bear. That bear is hungry. Jim is its preferred food. Jim turns the tables, eats the bear and finally suffers from bloat. Back home he goes, leaving each of his victims where he found them, including his mother. He returns to his room, resolves his problems, and is finally ready for pancakes.

Filled with humor and the feelings that hide inside every child at one time or another, this is a book that will delight and entertain young listeners. It is dedicated to Maurice Sendak, and rightly so. The illustrations capture the beastly behaviors of children, and embrace those feelings. They match the mood in landscapes, expression, and imagination.

Children experiencing a bad day of their own will find solace in knowing they are not alone. Emotions are powerful things. It's hard being a kid. This terrific tale honors that.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Who Wet My Pants? Written by Bob Shea and illustrated by Zachariah Ohora. Little, Brown and Company. Hachette. 2019. $23.49 ages 3 and up

"Did YOU 
wet my
pants?

Don't worry about 
it, Reuben. It could 
happen to anyone. 

But it didn't happen to
anyone! It happened to me!
All I want is JUSTICE!"

This is one of those books I would love to read in a classroom. I can only imagine the sneaky smiles, the quick giggles, the loud guffaws as listeners meet Reuben, a bear scout, following his return from a donut run for the rest of his troop. As they roast marshmallows and listen to the list of flavors purchased, they cannot help but notice the wet spot in the crotch of Reuben's pants. Noticing their attention, the bear becomes quickly adamant that someone is responsible for wetting his pants. He demands an answer.

"Oh, sure, it's all chipper,
cheery Chattytown when
I bring donuts, but when
someone wets my pants,
everybody clams up."

The others show concern and embarrassment for their friend, and offer sympathy and kindness. Reuben is not to be thwarted in his search for the culprit, holding the donuts hostage until someone owns up to it.

"Fine. NO ONE gets donuts
until I get answers.

I'll get to the bottom of my
wet pants if it's the last thing
I do!"

While blaming every one of his scouting friends, he reports what has happened throughout his day. A perfect explanation for the accident; not yet enough to break Reuben and his need to blame someone or something else. Finally, he is able to place blame where that blame is due - on his pants themselves. They must be broken.

Pants removed, reason found for the wet pants, the friends can finally enjoy their highly anticipated snack.

There is much to see in Zachariah Ohora's signature artwork. Full of bold colors, humor and expressive characters, they hold attention and beg a closer look. The dialogue balloons offer readers a perfect story to share in a read aloud setting.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Child's Guide to Arctic Butterflies, written by Mia Pelletier and illustrated by Danny Christopher. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2019. $16.95 ages 8 and up

"Fluttering Fact:

No one is quite sure where the word "butterfly" came from. Some say that the buttery yellow colour of European sulphur butterflies was the inspiration for the word "butter--fly." Other stories claim that the word used to be "flutter-by." Some say that witches were thought to take on the shape of butterflies ... "

Did you know there were butterflies in the Arctic? I did not. Now, I do. That is the real appeal of nonfiction for many. By reading well-written, informational text, we learn more about the world we live in.

While there are thousands of different species of butterflies in the natural world, only several dozen of them can be found in the Arctic. They must be tenacious to live in such a climate. Despite the fragility of their wings, they have made adaptations to stay healthy and hearty.

The author begins with an introduction and a comparison of a butterfly and a moth. She then describes a butterfly and its parts before explaining its life cycle.

"In the Arctic, butterflies are usually seen flying in late
June, July, and early August. Vulnerable to predators and
changing weather, most butterflies live short lives of only
a couple of weeks. During this brief time, butterflies must
find a mate, lay their eggs, and begin the cycle anew."

Before introducing a number of species to readers, Ms. Pelletier also explains how they stay warm in such a crisp climate and what they do in the cold of the winter. The twelve double page entries that follow are designed to provide the name, scientific name, wingspan, a clear description, where to look, how they fly, the caterpillar stage, during the winter, and a fluttering fact on the verso. A lovely illustration of each is placed on the recto, showing its coloring and the Arctic background. 

Back matter includes tips for identifying these hardy, delicate creatures, as well as a list for further reading.
                                                                               

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

One is a Lot (Except When It's Not). Written by Moun Thi Van and illustrated by Pierre Pratt. Kids Can Press, 2019. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"1 dog is a lot.

1 squirrel is a lot.

1 bicycle is a lot.

But 0 is just right.

1 key is a lot.

1 ride is a lot."

What a captivating story this is. It begins near a sunlit pond where ducks are swimming. A little girl and her dog are visiting. She has only two breadcrumbs. There are five ducklings and their mama; it is clearly not 'emough'. In fact, it is a 'little'. Is 1 better than nothing? It is ... when you are talking about the sun. One sun has people all over the park searching for shade as they spend time visiting, walking, reading, walking their dogs.

Each turn of the page offers a concise sentence that begins with 0, 1, or 2. Each illustration provides clear connections to the story being told. While young readers will concentrate on the concepts of a lot, a little, enough and not enough the first time they read it, a second visit will allow attention paid to the whole of the story being told.

The girl, her dog and the ducks are soon replaced by a boy, his dog, a squirrel, and an oak tree. Their paths cross - literally - while trying to contain the two exuberant, squirrel-chasing pups.  A friendship grows during a rainstorm. They share an umbrella, and a ball when the rain stops. The pups play. An acorn finds what in needs for growth in a rain puddle. Their future is sealed.

Variety in perspective, appealing artwork, humor in the details, and a fascinating premise for an early concept book. Well done!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Penny and Penelope, written by Dan Richards and illustrated by Claire Almon. Imprint, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 4 and up

"Well, Penelope is a princess.
Let's ride our ponies through
the countryside. The clover is
lovely this time of year.

Penny doesn't have a pony.
She has a turbocharged bike
with a real, working headlight."

They could not be more different. Their first time being together to play proves that. Each has a doll, similarly named. The girls' personalities are in full view from that first moment. A pearly pink bedroom replete with flowers, pillows, a tea table, and a castle mat is home to a young girl whose Princess Penelope doll is dressed in long gown, tiara and glass slippers. She wears a perpetual smile.
Her visitor wears jeans and a t-shirt. Her Penny doll is a secret agent, dressed in a motorcycle jacket, leather pants, boots and dark sunglasses.

The dolls' idea for an afternoon of play have little in common. While Princess Penelope is content with a tea party, Penny is 'on the lookout for danger'. When a ride in the country is suggested, Princess Penelope has a pony and Penny has a racing bike. It is quickly evident that these dolls have very different personalities, just as their owners do.

Illustrations brilliantly reflect those differences, while differently colored text provides context for each doll's response. When real danger, in the form of a werewolf, threatens, the two find common ground. Their imaginative play becomes ever more menacing. It doesn't take long for them to put their heads together to contain the danger and defeat their enemy.

"What are you doing? 

Making a trap.

I didn't know you could do that. 

Princesses are very resourceful.

I know how to tie a square knot. 

Then you can help."

Clever, action-packed and imaginative, this is a story that will resonate with its intended audience.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Hair Love, written by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Kokila, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"My hair even does magic
tricks. One day Rocky and I
were playing outside when
along came the rain.

From large to small it went.
Presto! Just like that!

There is nothing my hair
can't do!"

We read this book day after day when my granddaughters were here this summer. They loved it, and wanted to hear every night before bed. They have a dad who paints their nails, fixes their hair, and encourages their independence. So, they were thrilled to see how hard this dad worked to do his best job of styling his daughter's hair in celebration of their special day.

He does need help, and she is more than willing to give it. After all, Zuri's hair has a mind of its own. She loves it as does her dad; there are so many ways she can wear it. Her excitement for the day to come has her awake early. She tiptoes past her sleeping father, who is much in need of a break after caring for her every hour of the day.

Zuri knows exactly how she wants her hair to be styled; in anticipation, she is prepared to look to an expert on her tablet. Her cat knocks her tablet out of her hand, waking her father. He is fully prepared to help with a multitude of styles. Good for you, Dad. Many tries without success has her dad taking the lead from Zuri. It's the tablet to the rescue, with all the right instructions!

"Daddy combed,
     parted, oiled and twisted.

           He nailed it!"

And just in the nick of time, as it happens.

The digital illustrations are the perfect accompaniment, showing a loving family and the work they do to support one another. The details are warm and and another layer to the story  told. Expressive and encouraging, they show a dad committed to making this very special even more so.
                                                                       

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2018. $22.49 ages 10 and up

"Being dead, I see places I never saw before. See homes not high-rise projects, schools better than I ever imagined. Who knew there were schools with computer and science labs? Libraries with fluffy pillows and couches? I wouldn't have minded going to Sarah's school, I never would've been late or faked being sick. I don't think any kid at my old school - even the troublemakers - would've minded a sky-blue-painted school ... "

One of my good friends recently tole me that had I asked her grade seven and eight students which book had the most impact on them last year, they would have chosen this one. Deservedly so.

It is a story of a young black boy killed by a white police officer. Readers watch as the scene unfolds. Jerome lives in a poor neighborhood, and attends a school that does not have the funding it needs to support the children it serves. He is bullied and scared each day as he walks to school; and he is scared for his little sister as well. He protects her as best he can.

When Carlos, a new student from San Antonio, arrives and befriends Jerome, he shares what he learned there. When the bullying starts for him as well, he scares the three boys with his attitude and his toy gun. They stand off; Jerome is surprised and thankful. After school that day, Carlos encourages Jerome to take the gun for some imaginary play in the park near his home.

A police officer finds him there and shoots him, concerned that he is carrying a gun. Jerome's ghost is witness to all that happens following the shooting - his family's anguish, Carlos' guilt, the police officer's trial and subsequent not guilty verdict. Jerome also spends time with other ghost boys, including Emmit Till. He learns their stories, and the history that he is now a part of, and he is only seen by Sarah, the police officer's daughter. She can see all of the ghost boys, and is trying to come to grips with the action that changed all of their lives. 

Jerome's story is written in the past and his ghostly present (Alive and Dead), allowing readers to begin to understand the realities faced by black families as they lose their sons to the reality of racial injustice, and to the plight of those officers' families who must also deal with the aftermath of making a grave (conscious or unconscious) mistake. 

Challenging, historical, filled with enduring pain, and sure to spur discussion in middle years classrooms, you will not forget Jerome, his family, his friends or his circumstances.

I will leave the last words to Ms. Rhodes:

I write for children now. I believe they are our best hope for a better world. The young are curious and have such open hearts. I write challenging stories not to embitter them but to empower them to “be the change,” to remember always the sense of justice and fairness they knew instinctively as children when they become adults. Writing stories about ending all forms of bias and discrimination, I hope will be my legacy—my own personal attempt to “bear witness” beyond the grave.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Ants don't wear Pants, by Kevin McCloskey. First Second, Raincoast. 2019. $15.95 ages 5 and up

"Ants don't see well,
but they use four senses:

TOUCH

They tap each other with
their antennae to share
news."

Other books by Kevin McCloskey include We Dig Worms, The Real Poop on Pigeons, Snails Are Just My Speed, and Something's Fishy. Adding a book about ants to the list is welcome; it will be enjoyed by many, just as the others have been. It is filled with facts about those tiny, industrious insects that capture our attention. They are often also the target of variety in ways to destroy them.

To children, they are endlessly fascinating. They will know exactly what the author means when he tells them that ants are always on the move. All you have to do is watch them! He explains:

"When you can't stop moving,
we say you have "ants in your pants."

An apt description for a very busy young child.

Children see them everywhere they look in the summer. Whether at the park, in the backyard, or walking down the sidewalk, observant children are aware of these tiny creatures. A microscope helps a child see them up close and personal. Mr. McCloskey provides those close-ups for readers when he describes an ant's body, their life cycle, the colony they build, and the ways they use their senses in learning about the world around them. Giving his two main characters an ant's-eye view is an excellent way to assure that they are involved in the tour he is providing for them.

After a page at the center that is filled with 1000 ants, he moves on to show his readers a few from the thousands of different kinds of ants there are: weaver, honeypot, crazy, acorn, bulldog, big-head. pavement, fire, ghost ... and EXPLODING ants that use their special talent to protect the colony! He explains what ants like to eat; then, what likes to eat ants. When the two return to their normal size, they prove that they have indeed learned something about the tiny, ever-moving insect.

The illustrations, as has been the case in each of the other mentioned works, are filled with details. They are painted with acrylics and gouache on recycled paper bags. Just enough information is provided that it might inspire some readers to do further research. (I would like to know more about the honeypot and the ghost varieties.)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, written by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali. Art by Hatem Aly. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2019. $23.49 ages 4 and up


"Asiya's hijab isn't a whisper.
Asiya's hijab is like the sky on
a sunny day.
The sky isn't a whisper.
It's always there, special
and regular.

The first day of wearing hijab 
is important, Mama had said.
It means being strong."

School is about to start. That signals the time for Mama to take her daughters, Asiyah and Faizah, to choose Asiyah's first-day hijab. Mama and Asiyah don't agree on color. Mama loves pink; Asiyah chooses the  'the brightest blue.'

Faizah, our narrator, is ready and waiting in the morning, when Asiyah leaves the house dressed in that beautiful head covering. Faizah is proud and happy, and feels like a princess walking with her big sister. Once there, they part. In the line, Faizah is asked about her sister.

"What's that on your sister's head?"
the girl in front of me whispers.
"A scarf," I whisper back.
I don't know why a whisper came out.
I try again, louder now. " A scarf. HIjab."
"Oh," she whispers."

Faizah needs reassurance that Asiya is excited and doing okay. While she is there checking, a boy laughs and points at the head covering. It reminds Faizah about her mama's words:

Some people won't understand your hijab, Mama had said.
But if you understand who you are, one day they will too."

Throughout that first day, Faizah worries enough to stick close to her sister even at recess. As she watches that same boy tease Asiyah, she sees that her sister has ignored what he is saying and gone off with  her friends to play tag. Still worried at the end of the day, Faizah is thrilled to see her sister standing strong and smiling. It's all she needs.

A sensitive telling of a lovely family story, this book speaks to the bravery of acceptance and understanding, and to the power of a resilient spirit.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Big Boys Cry, written and illustrated by Jonty Howley. Penguin Random House, 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"On his way, Levi saw a
fisherman with tears in
his eyes, setting off on a
long trip.
"Big boys don't cry,"
said Levi.
Next, Levi saw a harpist,
lost in his music and
memories ... "

Going to a new school can be intimidating; Levi knows that only too well. He is scared, and he tells his dad that he is. His father is not sure how to handle the news. Hoping to help, he tells his son that 'big boys don't cry'. Off Levi goes, tears in his heart though not on his face.

The walk to school takes him past a fisherman, who is hugging his family as he heads off to sea. He is crying. Levi reminds himself of his father's advice. Further on, he notices a harpist crying over his music and memories, and two emotional poets reading aloud what they have written. Again, he reminds himself of his father's words.

Along the way he passes men of all professions and passions crying in response to the day's events. He is surprised to see so many 'big boys' expressing their emotions through tears. Finally arriving at school, he is warmly welcomed and asked to join everyone as they spend their first day together. Time there passes quickly; Levi is soon on his way home at the end of the day.

Levi's father is waiting for him, with tears in his eyes. Seems Papa was scared, too. It turns out that this first day at a new school taught Levi a fine lesson to share with his beloved dad. All is well.

The setting is a quiet village by the sea, where there is much action and people from all walks of life. Details presented offer a bit of a back story for readers. Papa is doing his best to help Levi cope with a new and emotional situation. In the end, the important lesson is that not all of the tears are about being sad.

In an interview, Jonty Howley expresses his hope for this story:

"My hope for Big Boys Cry is that by presenting a fun, colorful world where healthy expression of emotion has no negative stigma, readers will see that the characters are in no way weakened by their feelings, but rather strengthened and enriched by them."
                                                                     

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

I'm Trying To Love Math, by Bethany Barton. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"I think you're missing the point. Math isn't all about numbers.

Arithmetic (another word for
math with numbers) is super
helpful ...

but it's only one part of math."

After trying to convince her readers to embrace bees and spiders, Ms. Barton turns to math. I could have used this book when I was MUCH younger, and think it will be great fun to share in classrooms this fall.

Math is one of those subjects that people tend to like, or not. Those with an early affinity for all things math certainly love it with a passion. Those, like me, who had an early aversion to it may have some difficulty grasping its more difficult elements. The narrator reminds me that I am not alone. In fact, she states that '4 in 10 Americans hate math.'

In a conversation between said narrator and a spaceship-guiding alien, readers are told that all people on Earth understand the same math no matter where they live. The alien explains the scientists sent golden records of life on earth into deep space. This alien found the math golden record, and has learned much from it.

"They sent you math?
No wonder aliens don't come visit!
They should have sent cookies!

What are cookies? 

I'll make you some!
They're so much better than math!"

Wait! Doesn't baking involve a lot of math?  In fact, math is pretty much everywhere. What about music, exploration, nature, travel, time, and buying groceries? In point of fact, math is a part of our lives even if we don't always acknowledge it. Maybe it's not that bad, after all.

The pen-and-ink illustrations are filled with math symbols and problems, and other entertaining details. Sure to be enjoyed by the target audience, and to bring an awareness of the part math does play in our daily activities.
                                                                       

Monday, September 9, 2019

Come Next Season, written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Daniel Miyares. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 3 and up

"Come summer,
we'll kick our sheets
to the foot of our beds.
A fan will thrum,
back and forth,
cooling our cheeks like
the chilly wind

that will blow ... 

come Fall."

I think it is safe to say that our next season is upon us. The nighttime temperature last night fell to 1 C. That's a bit of a chill for my hanging flower baskets. But, they survived and are now enjoying bright sunshine. Our forecast is calling for four days of rain starting tomorrow. It is that time of year!

This glowing look at the changing seasons shows a brother and sister as they enjoy all of the wonders of the year's seasons, beginning and ending with memories of summer. Lake visits, blueberry picking, corn roasts, and mosquitoes give way to windy days, colorful leaves, warm sweaters and garden produce. So, it goes from one season to the next; each is reflected in  the cheerful artwork created by award winning artist Daniel Miyares. The setting is rural, the colors are perfect. The senses are involved in text and art, and the joy of family is evident at every turn of the page. I love that the initial spread is almost identical to the final one ... filled with the joy of being at the lake.

"Come next season . . .
The lake will sparkle.
The leaves will fall from the trees.
We'll play all day in the snow.
We'll visit the farm--and maybe make a friend."

Magical and exciting, this is a real celebration!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

I Miss My Grandpa, written and illustrated by JIn Xiaojing. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2019. $24.99 ages

"Grandma says,
"your eldest uncle, Leo,
has a nose
passed down from your grandpa."
Uncle Leo says,
"By always learning,
trying, practicing,
your grandpa knew
when to water the soil,
when to fertilize the soil,
and when to plant in the soil
just by smelling the soil."

The child who narrates this gentle family story never knew her grandfather; he died before she was born. It does not mean that she does not miss him. She wants to know as much as she can about the man who has had such a profound effect on the family who did know him. So, she asks her grandmother.

Her first question concerns how he looked. Her grandmother answers with a referral to her uncle, Mason, whose face is similar to her grandpa's. Uncle Mason has a response concerning what he remembers about his father. Each referral to another family member who bears a resemblance to her grandfather has her learning more about him.

He was quiet and patient, imaginative, a gardener, a storyteller, and a good listener with curly hair. All of those special traits were inherited by one of the children he left behind, all of whom have wonderful memories of the man he was. The best surprise for the little girl is that, like her mother, she has inherited her grandfather's curly hair.

Grandma asserts that even though the little one did not know him,

"You can meet him in your heart.
He is still living within us, who love him."

Jin Xiaojing's compelling artwork is done 'in colored pencil, watercolor, marker, oil pastel, acrylic, dip pen, pencil, ink, and brush on watercolor paper and drawing paper.' It is textured and patterned,  creating strong and captivating images. On the front endpapers, the author has placed a note about her own grandfather, and the fact that she did not know him. At the rear, she includes a mandarin Chinese translation of the text.

This sparkling picture book debut is a welcome addition to any collection of family stories, particularly those that reflect the role of, and love for, grandparents.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Sharing Our Truths: Tapwe. By Henry Beaver and Mindy Willett with Eileen Beaver. Photographs by Tessa Macintosh. Fifth House Publishers, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"When they arrived, we made a big list of things to do. Motega, the adventurer, wanted to go for a boat ride and trap a beaver. Nevaeh, ever watchful, wanted to learn more about traditional medicines. Quiet Naicha didn't tell us what he wanted to do, and little Niska was a bit squeamish about being out of the city ... "

Grandparents have so much to share with their grandchildren; that is abundantly clear in this addition to The Land is Our Storybook series. Filled with appealing and illuminating text and photographs, it describes the summer visit of four grandchildren to their grandparents, Eileen and Henry Beaver, who live in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories.

Henry Beaver, who is Cree, shares many truths about his culture, and passes on traditional understandings to his grandchildren who are visiting from Edmonton with their mother. They begin on the land with a visit to the Salt Plains, and a lesson on harvesting salt. It is used as medicine, and also for flavoring and preserving food. All four grandchildren then go with their grandfather to trap a beaver. Once they have caught their beaver, they take it home to be skinned and used for its meat and its hide.

They are taught the step-by-step process for setting up a tipi (mikiwawhp); every step is clearly described and monitored by Henry. Once constructed, the tipi is prepared for giving thanks, roasting marshmallows, and telling stories. Eileen describes smudging and their sacred plants: sage, tobacco, cedar and sweetgrass. Then, Henry takes the children out on the land to find other medicinal plants.

So many lessons taught and learned together is at the heart of this remarkable book. It is filled with family photos, shared memories and provides a warm and loving look at the role elders play in indigenous communities. All additional notes are welcome and of benefit to readers.

"We can't tell you what to do with the truths we share in this book, but we hope that reading our story will help you get to know us a little better so that together we can make this nation a place we can all be proud of."
                                                                                 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Hope, written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Disney-Hyperion, Hachette. 2019. $17.99 ages 3 and up

"Dearest Grandchild,

Our world is so big.
Our world is so old.
We are each
a small, small piece.

Yet in your time,
you will see so much.
You will meet so many."

Following Wish (Disney, 2015) and Dream (Disney, 2017) comes this book about another pair of animals and the children they love. This time they are a lion and a lioness, and they are grandparents. As the two run toward the hut that holds their grandchild, they are filled with memories of the lives they have led. They speak to the fact that, following all of the many challenging and wonderful events of their lives, they are tired.

In this new grandchild, they see hope for the future. They also know there will be amazing lessons to learn, other animals to meet, and visits to the places and paths they, too, have taken. They have faith that this grandchild will find their own important path.

"Dearest Grandchild,

The world is not always light.
At times it goes dark.

When even together,
we are apart.

In these times,
We must look for light.

We must look for hope."

Matt Cordell's words will resonate with parents and grandparents who read this book to their much-loved children and grandchildren. It is filled with emotion and truth, and is perfect for bedtime reading because of its quiet, peaceful tone. Young listeners will note the bond that it inspires ... knowing that those who came before them share many of the same things they will experience. It is the circle of life. 

When grandparents are gone, as inevitably happens, their love will not be forgotten. Ending the book with a note from grandchildren to grandparents is a loving assertion that their love and hope will live on in this new generation.

Matthew Cordell's warm and inspiring watercolor illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the story's tone.

Add this one to your list of books to buy for baby showers.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Island in the Salish Sea, written by Sheryl McFarlane and illustrated by Leslie Redhead. Orca Book Publishers, 2019. $19.95 ages 6 and up

"Every day is a beach day, and every day is different.
Sometimes I build forts out of driftwood tangles or explore the
sandstone caves. Sometimes I search for sea cucumbers and
decorator crabs in the tide pools, or we eat clams and roast
marshmallows around a beach fire.

But every day we swim, even if it rains."

An annual trip to spend the summer with her grandmother on an island in the Salish Sea is highly anticipated by the child narrator of this poignant, atmospheric book. It is a quiet, personal sharing of the days they spend together.

They do everything together - enjoying the beach, collecting new treasure, sharing nettle tea with a neighbor, biking to pick berries, gardening, and fishing. It is a vacation filled with activities that satisfy their souls. A visit to Joe, a neighbor who is carving a totem pole provides information about the significance of the eagle he is working on, and the significance of the eagle feather.

They fish, go clamming, and add to the treasures they have previously collected. Pocketing a piece of bone they find is met with a stern response.

"Gran isn't happy with me when she empties my
pockets for the wash. She makes me return the bone.
"Middens are like museums without walls," she says.
"Their treasures are for us all."

Each day brings adventure and new learning. The two find endless ways to entertain themselves,  even picking berries to preserve and to bake into pies. When the time comes to return home, there is sadness and a longing to extend their days in hopes they might see even more than they have already seen. Luckily, the ferry trip back to the mainland affords a chance to see one special sight the two  have missed during their time together.

The lovely watercolor artwork helps readers celebrate this special summer vacation. The setting is lovely, idyllic and much appreciated. The love between the two is shown in every memory. The environment is beautifully infused with sunlight in spreads that sparkle with love.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Where Are You From? Written by Yamile Saied Mendez and illustrated by Jaime Kim. Harper, 2019. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"Where are you from?
they ask.

Is your mom from here?

Is your dad from there?
they ask.

I'm from here, from today.,
same as everyone else, I say."

The question 'where are you from' is often asked of those who look different than the person asking that question. For young children, it can be disconcerting. The young girl in this thoughtful and wise book thinks her answer is the explanation they are looking for. Rarely does it satisfy the questioners.  Confused, she turns to her abuelo to help her further explain her origins.

"I ask Abuelo because he knows everything,
and like me, he looks like he doesn't belong."

Expecting a simple answer that can then be repeated to those who question her heritage, she is surprised when he has a much more complicated (and wonderful) answer for her. He begins at the beginning.

"You come from the Pampas,
the open, free land, he says."

With further thought and a heart filled with love for his granddaughter, he goes on to share the history of their people through time and place. The stunning, brightly-colored, double page vistas that accompany his lyrical response, give readers get a real sense of the events and the surroundings that brought her to where she is today.

"From this land where our ancestors built a home for all,
even when they were in chains because of the color of their skin."

Not entirely satisfied with all he has shared, the little one asks the same question others ask her:  "where am I really from?"  Pointing to his heart, he assures that she comes from the love he has for her and the love of everyone who came before her.

Asking grandparents about our heritage is not always top of mind. I am sorry I missed the chance to sit and listen to the stories they had to tell. This is a book that encourages children to ask those very important questions.
                                                                                 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

When I Found Grandma, written by Saumiya Balasubramaniam, and illustrated by Qin Leng. Groundwood Books, 2019. $17.95 ages 5 and up

"I woke up to the sound of her
prayer bells the next morning.
When Grandma disappeared for
her super-long shower, I hid the
bells under her bed.

But I was excited to be awake.
It was spring break. Father had
promised a trip to the island.

But why was he dressed in white,
looking like Mr. Snowman?"

Grandparents Day 2019 is upon us - to be celebrated Sunday, September 8 this year. So, I am looking for books about grandparents that might find their way into your collection.

Seeing a friend's grandma pick her up from school every day, Maya expresses a wish that her grandmother did more than send her postcards. Her grandmother lives far away; it is the best she can do given those circumstances. Imagine Maya's surprise when, a few weeks later, she arrives home after school to find her grandmother has come for a visit.

"My special surprise wore a crimson sari and
carried homemade sweets.
I ran to Grandma. She pinched my cheeks
and kissed her fingers. Then she sat cross-
legged on the floor and handed out her
goodies."

Those treats are not such a treat for Maya. Her preference for cupcakes is the first of a variety of incidents that are not comfortable for Maya. The worst of them is when her grandma refuses to use Maya's American name; she insists on calling her Mayalakshmi. Grandma is dumbfounded by Maya's responses to what is normal and natural to her.

Each day offers up a new annoyance for Maya - a nightly prayer, morning prayer bells, long showers, and wanting to celebrate Holi at the temple when they have plans to visit the island. Such disappointment for the young girl. Grandma agrees to miss temple for her beloved granddaughter, suggesting they can pray while on the island. Grandma borrows red pants and blue shoes to wear on their adventure. She also buys a baseball cap to wear while there.

At the celebration, Maya loses sight of her family and is terrified. It's Grandma to the rescue! Maya can hear her calling her name, and can see the baseball cap that Grandma is holding high to help Maya find her in the huge crowd. When it is time for Grandma to return home at the end of spring break, Maya is left with a task ... and a new attitude.

The first person narrative is honest and totally convincing. The emotions expressed in the text are beautifully captured with ink and watercolor in the detailed artwork we have come to associate with the exceptional Qin Leng.
                                                                       

Monday, September 2, 2019

Nature All Around: Bugs. Written by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Carolyn Gavin. Kids Can Press. 2019. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"As the cold weather approaches,
you might start to notice fewer
and less-active bugs. You may
know that many birds migrate, or
fly south, when winter approaches.
But did you know that some insects
migrate, too? Insects migrate for
several reasons: to avoid a cold or
dry season, or to find food or a
mate. In the fall, certain kinds of
dragonflies, moths and beetles
migrate long distances."

If you have questions about insects and you choose to read this book, you will not be sorry. Packed full of brightly colored illustrations and an abundance of charts, it will inform children with carefully chosen text and a brilliant design. We do indeed have bugs all around us. Any visit to the natural world outside the cozy environs of home is bound to have young readers on the lookout for ants, ladybugs, butterflies ... and so many more.

"There are twice as many insects in the world as
all other kinds of animals combined. Many animals,
such as fish, birds, frogs, turtles and bats, depend on
insects for food. And plants need insects to carry
pollen from one flower to another ... "

Each page turn provides pertinent information concerning the bugs of the world. In carefully constructed pages, the author and illustrator show readers many fascinating facts about them. Two page sections reveal variety in the topics chosen to share: bugs up close teamed with a clear description of true bugs, insect impostors, complete metamorphosis compared to incomplete metamorphosis, a bug's home, bugs in the water. Those are followed by sections concerning bugs in each of the four seasons. There are instructions for becoming a novice bug-watcher, and a list of needed materials to become one. More strange bugs includes quick descriptions and full color sketches of the walking stick, the stink bug, the termite queen, the tiger swallowtail, silverfish and the burying beetle.

The author also includes a list of what children can do to help insects that are endangered, and illustrated instructions for making an insect feeder. That is followed up with a useful glossary and an index to take readers back to those pages that hold the most interest for them.

It's a terrific addition to the Nature All Around series which began last year with an equally wonderful book about trees.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Vroom! By Barbara McClintock. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 3 and up

"Annie drove through
a cool, damp forest,

over a wide river,

and into a city.

There were lots
of people."

I have long admired Barbara McClintock's storytelling, both in text and illustration. Meeting Annie is pure delight. Annie is a girl after my own heart: fearsome, adventurous, imaginative and spirited. You know it when you see her - pajama-clad, helmeted, and gloved, she has adventure on her mind.

Sure enough! She jumps into her race car and out her bedroom window she roars. Driving down roads that are 'straight and flat' is only the beginning. It isn't long until she is climbing hills, zooming through a desert, and navigating the narrow path in a forest. Then, onto a bridge leading directly into a huge city, filled with people and traffic congestion. Nothing fazes this brave adventurer. Tired from her travels she returns home, roars up the stairs and through the living room to her own bedroom,  where she settles in for a bedtime read about CARS.

Perfectly plotted, simple text allows readers to experience the drama and daring of an imagined break from familiarity for this spunky little girl. The delightful panoramas are filled with wonder and adventure. Readers will be fascinated by each new scene, all chronicling an adventure that they would love to have themselves. The details are special: the rear view mirror images, the watchful city spectators, a sudden breakaway from the crowded streets, the many hints in her bedroom of her love for racing. Is that a Danica Patrick poster?

My admiration remains constant and strong.