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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Cicada, by Shaun Tan. Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic, 2019. $26.99 ages 12 and up

"No cicada in
office bathroom.
Cicada go downtown.
Twelve blocks.
Each time company
dock pay.

Tok Tok Tok!

Human never
finish work."

Shaun Tan calls this book the 'simplest' book he has written yet. I have read almost every one of his children's books time and time again, and none of them seem simple. That holds true for me here as well. It is the same length as a traditional picture book for kids ... 32 pages, tells a story, and is illustrated. It is, however, not like other picture books I have shared.

For one thing, I have rarely posted a picture book that I would recommend only for those who are adolescents, and adults. I think it will only be meaningful to them. They  have the ability to understand and discuss the subject matter, and find meaning in it.

The cicada is its subject. A cicada that works in an office environment, where humans also work. The cicada is virtually ignored unless someone chooses to bully it. Even those interactions between insect and human are few and far between. Its work is monotonous - same desk, same building, same daily grind. It is not recognized as human or given any of the amenities the humans enjoy. In fact, it lives in a space in the office wall where its presence is ignored, and must walk downtown to use bathroom facilities.

Despite the lack of concern or kindness, the cicada is productive, conscientious, and always at work. No sick days, no promotions. Its retirement goes unnoticed, unrewarded, and definitely unremarkable - until it climbs to the rooftop, steps onto the ledge, and transforms.

A quiet time is needed after the book is read. That time allows readers to consider what is happening in their own heads. It begs thought concerning immigrant workers, introverts, those who are different, and should point everyone who reads toward empathy and perhaps, kindness.

Tan paints the cicada in a rumpled gray suite with four arms, a clip-on, barcode ID badge, the only color is its brilliant green head. Everything else about the office environment is gray. Thankfully, there is humor is the cicada's speech and the repeated 'Tok Tok Tok!' it utters. Its transformation brings great joy, and a last laugh. Have I said this before? Don't miss the endpapers!

Shaun Tan is a master at telling wondrous stories. Here, he proves it all over again.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Biggest Puddle in the World, written by Mark Lee and illustrated by Nathalie Dion. Groundwood, 2019. $18.95 ages 4 and up

"Charlie and I wanted
to go outside, but there
too much rain!

Big fat drops of it
splattered on the ground.
Water gushed out of a
gutter spout."

Charlie and Sarah are thrilled to be spending six days with their grandparents. The children love the old house their grandparents live in, and spend the first day running from room to room and reacquainting themselves with its many special places. When it starts to rain on the second day, they make further discoveries. And the rain keeps pouring down. By the third day, the children are becoming agitated with having to stay put.

Sarah has a question to ask.

"Where does the rain come from?" I asked
my grandfather.
"I'll show you when the storm passes," he
said. "But first we'll have to find the biggest
puddle in the world."
The biggest puddle in the world! How big 
would that be?"

Finally, on the fourth day, the sun shines. The children finish their breakfast and hurry out to find their grandfather chopping wood. Sarah wants to see the biggest puddle in the world. It's time! Off they go together, enjoying the small puddles, the mushrooms that have popped up thanks to the moisture and all the other signs of growth the rain has encouraged. Their grandfather suggests they follow the water from one small puddle to a stream; then, to a pond. Stopping at the pond to scoop some water and pour it on a nearby rock, Big T. (the grandfather) asks Sarah to draw a puddle map. She does.

While Sarah is busy, the water disappears and Big T. explains why. Next, they find a river, and finally the biggest puddle - the ocean. What excitement!

This is a terrific introduction for little ones to the way the water cycle works. Learning in the real world has such benefits for them; it is learning that lasts. I like the gentle, earthy feel of the muted watercolors, which are created in a mix of real and digital watercolors. They set just the right tone for a book celebrating water.

Friday, March 29, 2019

New Kid, by Jerry Craft. Harper. 2019. $18.99 ages 10 and up

"We didn't even come CLOSE 
to winning. In fact, we lost 11-1!
But my goal was the first one that
a fifth's team had scored in seven 
years! And it was the ONLY ONE 
that we could score all season.

Still, I ended up liking soccer a lot
more that I thought. It was nice
being on a school team. Who knows
- maybe I'll even go out for a spring
sport ... "

Jordan is an artist whose dream is to go to an art school. His parents want him to go to a private school where the opportunities will bode well for his future. Being a seventh grader pretty much leaves him at the mercy of parental decisions. So, Jordan is enrolled at the Riverdale Academy Day School; must leave his neighborhood to attend; and faces new kids, new environment, new teachers, and all the angst that naturally comes with adolescence as he begins his year.

His bus trip to school means a shift in outfit and attitude as he passes from neighborhood to neighborhood. His journal entry describes the ride:

"Fitting in on the ride to school is hard work!
I have to be like a chameleon.
For example, in Washington Heights,
I try to look tough.

Inwood is a little different, so I can lose the hood.
No one ever smiles in the morning, so you won't catch
me doing that either!

Kingsbridge is where all of the public school kids get off,
so it's okay to take off my shades. I can even draw!

Last comes Riverdale, where I do my best not to look cool
AT ALL! No shades, and definitely no hood. I don't even like
to draw 'cause people might think I'm going to use my
markers to "tag the bus"!"

It's an exhausting way to start his day, and indicative of the changes from home to school. Have I mentioned that Jordan is one of the few students of color at Riverdale? It makes for interesting and often trying times. He is frustrated by the bias, privilege, racism and other minor indignities felt even when unintentional. He uses his journal to bring focus to what is happening at school and at home, dealing honestly with what he is feeling.

It is tough work for Jordan, living in two worlds and trying to make the best of both. His friends are as diverse as the school life he is living. Secondary characters are authentic middle graders, accurately portrayed in small and large scenes that will resonate with those who choose to read this novel.  No one escapes assumptions often made.

The graphic form allows time for discussion and careful thought. Issues uncovered will be recognized by many students, and they are sure to feel Jordan's pain as he does his best to find his own place and fit in. He is a mentor who motivates others by being open to friendship with many, and who wants to talk about those things that require serious thought and action. Luckily, there are many humorous moments; these help to alleviate the tension in some of the more serious scenes. It helps to remember that every student has a battle of their own to fight. Jordan shows that being kind can make all the difference. 

I think every middle years classroom should have a copy of this exceptional graphic novel.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Very Last Castle, words by Travis Jonker and pictures by Mark Pett. Abrams Books for Young Readers. 2018. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Since no one had been
inside the castle, the
townspeople had ideas
about who - or what -
was in there.


'Monsters," said Miss

There used to be castles in Ibb's town. Now, there is only one left. It's in the middle of town and is the subject of much speculation on the part of the townspeople who hear the noises that come from inside, and who have never stepped a foot inside it. Ibb is curious. She wants to find out the truth about the castle and the guardsman who watches all who pass by. There is a worry about monsters, giants, and snakes. Ibb wonders if the rumors are true.

So, one day she decides to cross the moat, knock on the castle door, and see what happens. Before she can find out, she runs. It is a surprise to her when she receives an invitation for a visit to the castle. Others worry and warn her not to accept. Ibb makes her own decision. Soon, she is back at the castle; this time, she is not the least bit scared of what she might find there.

It's a good thing. For, she meets the old, kind, lonely guard who takes care of it. He offers a tour. As they walk, they talk. Ibb learns that the guard is ready for someone else to take care of the castle and its inventive topiary gardens. Ibb is happy to be of help to William. They prune, and harvest, and then return to the front gate.

Will Ibb help? Perhaps, they can make a deal that will work for everyone. William, included.

Pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations show a young, spirited girl who is both brave and kind. The art works well with the text, keeping the story thoughtful and relaxed. Done in mostly full-page horizontal spreads, it allows readers a sense of the castle's size and hidden wonders. Exhibiting curiosity, bravery and a strong sense of community, Ibb is a young girl to be admired. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

My Forest Is Green, written by Darren Lebeuf and illustrated by Ashley Barron. Kids Can Press, 2019. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"My forest is tall.

My forest is short.

My forest is fluffy.

My forest is prickly.

My forest is rough.

My forest is smooth."

This is a truly amazing concept book for little ones who have an abiding interest in the outdoors, and what can be found there. The child narrator has knowledge of the forest he knows so well, and is a welcome presence as we trek through it with him.

He sees it from his apartment's window when he wakes in the morning. He loves it so much that he also has created images of it to hang on the walls at home. It is evident that he is an artist, and sees his outdoor forest with an artist's eye, noting its textures, its weather, its colors, and recreating what he sees, when he gets home with found objects and an artist's supplies.

He describes its many assets in simple declarative sentences that have real appeal for a child reader's senses and understanding. He uses his eyes, hands, and ears to make discoveries as he ventures along its pathways, then replicates what he sees in his journal first, and then in the art he creates once he  returns home.

There is such joy in his discoveries and it is evident in the remarkable collage images created to accompany his story. This is a book that will be requested on numerous occasions. It may even spark artistic experimentation. 

It offers peace and inspiration.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Nature All Around: Trees. Written by Pamela Hickman and illustrated by Carolyn Gavin. Kids Can Press, 2019. $18.99 ages 7 and up

"Although trees have buds all winter long, you sometimes only notice buds once they start to get bigger. When the ground thaws, the tree roots can again suck up lots of water. Water travels up to the buds, causing them to swell and eventually burst open. Inside a deciduous bud, you might find tiny leaves, flowers or both. When a leaf buds open, the thicker outer scales usually fall off. "

It won't be long! Trees will start budding out as soon as the snow has gone, and the sun is a regular visitor to our days. In this excellent introduction to trees that grow throughout North America, Ms. Hickman helps her readers take a close-up look at the tree's parts, learn the differences between deciduous and evergreen trees, identify the shapes and sizes of leaves, and understand photosynthesis, tree growth, and how to age a tree.

She describes trees in every season. A map of forest regions covers a double page, and plots which trees can be found where in both Canada and the United States. I like the variety in the way she presents this useful and very accessible look at the tree and its many features. It is a great way to get young naturalists to take a closer look at what is outside their door and in their neighborhoods.

Text boxes, lists, a glossary and index add to the appeal, and readers are encouraged to learn about trees that are endangered and what can be done to help. There are clear instructions for planting a backyard tree, and an impressive look at some truly strange specimens.

"Toxic Trees

All parts of the dangerous manchineel tree contain poisonous chemicals. In the rain, sap from the tree can drip on your skin and cause blistering and other painful sores. The tree's fruit are called "death apples" since they are toxic to anyone who accidentally takes a bite."

Be sure you know what one looks like if you are planning a trip to Disney World and area.

The watercolor and gouache artwork provides context for the information and certainly attracts attention. When I finished reading this fine book, I felt as if I had been to a most enjoyable presentation, given with clear knowledge and a genuine interest in its very worthy subject.

Be on the lookout for a companion book coming this fall, dealing with Bugs. 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Albert's Quiet Quest, written and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Tundra. Penguin Random House. 2019. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"Oh, Albert!
Can you keep an eye
on Victoria while
I go get my cat, please?

No, thanks,
I'm -

I'll be right back."

If you loved Colette's Lost Pet (Tundra, 2017) as much as I did, you will be very pleased to know that this book returns to Montreal's Mile End neighborhood and introduces Albert as a young, quiet boy who wants to find a hushed place to read his book. His house is too noisy to accommodate the need for such a pursuit. His first stop is the alley behind said house, where he spots a watercolor sunset in a painting that is obviously being tossed out. Back he goes for a chair, and settles to quietly contemplate the beauty of that sunset before he begins his book.

Another gate opens, and two gardening friends wonder if he would like to give them a hand. No, he is fine. Back to his reading, his friend Tom asks him to join him at badminton. No, he is fine. The next intrusion is a request to care for a doll in a baby carriage. No, he is fine. No matter, he is given the job. With each neighborhood friend's arrival, the alley becomes more crowded, noisier, and less conducive to the peace and quiet required for a good read.

Finally, at his wit's end, Albert slams his book shut and hollers at his friends:

"That's it! QUIET!!
For Pete's sake, 
can't someone 
just read a book 
around here
or what?!?"

His outburst brings a quick end to all alley activities. Albert is finally on his own to read to his heart's content. It no longer has the same appeal. But, friends are friends. Soon, he is no longer alone. An apology is offered. Not without consequence ....

Absolutely wonderful! This is one of my favorite books from the spring season. Page turns throughout take Albert from the reality of his urban alley to the imagined beauty of the sunlit beach, where the activities of his friends play out, the noise increases with each new arrival and his patience wears thin.

Final pages return him to reality, and the pleasure of good companions. The pace is perfect, the characters full of charm, and their story a delight! I can't wait to meet them all again.

Introverts, unite!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Lambslide, written by Ann Patchett and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. Harper. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"They were impressed that the lambs had thought things through so carefully.

The Farmers decided that the whole farm should vote on whether or not there should be a lambslide.

When all the votes were counted, the lambslide won by a landslide.

All thoughts have turned to spring! Water is running down the streets, the snow is melting quickly, the sun is shining brightly. We can even see patches of soil on nearby fields. What better time to take a look at books that make us 'think spring'?

The kids who pick this book for a quiet read are likely to do it because of their love for animals.  Just look at those wee, active lambs on the front cover. What are they doing? It takes some time, and a lot of cajoling to get them the 'lambslide' they so badly want to have.

They are three lambs, mostly concerned about themselves and their own happiness. A misunderstanding while listening to a conversation between Nicolette Farmer and her parents inspires an original thought.

"One day Nicolette Farmer announced to her Farmer family,
"I'm going to run for class president today!"
Mrs. Farmer said, "You'll win by a landslide!"
This meant her mother thought she'd win by a lot.

But the lambs thought she said, "You'll win by a lambslide!"
This was exciting news."

It is also the beginning of a concerted effort to get that lambslide built on the farm. They have personal complaints about the flat land that allows pigs to play in the mud, the horses to go for long rides, and there being nothing special for them to do. Their mother suggests checking with the other animals on the farm about the viability for their very original idea. The chickens wonder who will pay. The lambs certainly don't have money. The goats want to know if they will be welcome. The pigs want to be sure it will not interfere with their muddy spots. The lambs return to their mother for her next suggestion. With some help, they make their point.

Everyone counts in the decision that is made concerning the lambslide. Ms. Preiss Glasser assures there is plenty to see in her watercolor and ink images that depict life on this particular farm.  Humorous and filled with personality, children will learn a little about cooperation and the chance for everyone to have a say in decisions made.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Deep Underwater, by Irene Luxbacher, Groundwood Books, 2018. $18.95 ages 6 and up

"First, take a deep
breath and drift down,
down past the day. Stars
can only shine when the
light fades.

Deep underwater,
tentacles, antennae
and teeth disappear
into darkness ... and
an abyss becomes ... "

Sophia loves the sea, and everything about it. Because she does, she wants others to share the joy she feels while underwater. She invites readers to follow her below the surface to explore the many wonders there are to see and the secrets that the sea holds for those who venture into its depths.

She has a quiet, mesmerizing voice as she tempts readers to see what she sees.

" I know where dragons live and
where floating forests grow.
I've seen clowns and angels and
four-eyed butterflies ... "

Who among us would miss seeing such things ... if we ever had the chance?

The spectacular artwork 'was rendered by hand with graphite, watercolor, and acrylic paints, then digitally composed and printed using archival inks and papers. Final art was then further developed with graphite, soft-colored pencils and found collage materials'. Is it any wonder that it compels readers to stop, look, and spend time poring over its many details?

There are many questions to ask, and images to carefully consider. From the surface to the deeps and back again, all is calm and reassuring, yet full of adventure. There is no fear in the darkness. Your first trip with Sophia will not be the last ...

“Deep down, I never feel alone. I can always see a friend in me.”

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Happy Book, and other feelings. By Andy Rash. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"I have a really big egg
I can't even lay! 

I got a cramp in my
arm from sawing!

My car won't start! 
I need that bike! 

Give me that thing! 
No way!"

Camper and Clam provide an enthusiastic invitation for readers to join in a celebration of friendship and happiness. Their story begins in a wash of warm yellow, meant to signify the sunny state of that friendship. Things go awry when Camper indulges in eating an entire cake that Clam has baked. Camper offers thanks, but no apology.

Thinking the book is done, Camper is surprised to discover a door. Passing through it, he enters The Sad Book. a place that Clam describes as 'where I go when I'm not feeling happy', and introduces a friend, Trombone. Clam voices the sadness felt at not being able to share the cake. Trombone commiserates with sadness of its own. Camper cannot fathom staying put in such a place. Clam cannot imagine being back in The Happy Book. 

Camper is furious with the turn of events and creates a brand new book that helps to explain how he is feeling.

"The Angry Book 

"Oh, hello, Clam. This is MY new
book and MY new friend, Wet Hen.

Bawk bawk bawk!"

Washed with red, and filled with angry dialogue between the apparent friends, it concerns Clam who asks Camper why he is so mad.

"I'm angry that I can't make
you happy and scared we
won't be friends anymore."

What a dilemma, and what a winning way to show young readers the depth of emotions felt in just one small burst of time. Moving from anger to fear, their world turns green. While there, the two discover that being together makes the world brighter and less frightful. In a parting note, the five friends plan a feelings book to showcase the ways they feel about all that has transpired.

The cartoon-like illustrations add interest and pertinent details that will encourage discussion. They add  humor, and allow kids to think about their own emotions, and ways to let others know what they are feeling. They are energetic and playful, with the speech bubble dialogue that kids love, thus providing for shared reading with early readers taking individual parts.

A terrific readaloud!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Orca Scientist, by Kim Perez Valice. With photographs by Andy Comins and the Center for Whale Research. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2018. $26.50 10 and up

"It is his hope that if we pay close attention to the whales and the changes going on in their world, things will get better. It's a hope that will help not only the future of the whales, but ours as well. Ken remains optimistic ..."

This is another one of those books that I thought I would skim ... stopping to read what I found most fascinating. Isn't that what we teach kids to do when we are talking about nonfiction books with them?

As always happens when I get to looking at this fascinating series, I stopped so often that I read the whole thing. Orcas are quite the amazing creatures, and their numbers are dropping much too quickly. Scientists are studying them in the waters off the San Juan Islands. The study began in 1971 and is active today. The scientists from the Center for Whale Research are the committed and constant purveyors of the Southern Resident Pods; they name them, take their photos, and follow them, collecting their droppings and doing analysis in their lab.

As with every other book I have read in this quite remarkable series, the design is engaging, the photographs wonderful, and the text informative and attention-getting. Seeing these magnificent whales in their home environment, and watching them play with family members belies the fact that they are called 'killer whales'. Careful observation shows a mother teaching her calf to find its own food. Their favorite food, the Chinook salmon, often cannot reach their spawning grounds due to damming problems that do not allow migration. Thus, the orca population is declining because of a drastic drop in the number of salmon. It is a dilemma and scientists work endlessly to find a solution to the loss.

Much is being done; more is needed. Readers are encouraged to find ways to help. Whale facts are included, as well as facts pertinent to replenishing the salmon numbers. These whales are at high risk, and there are ways they can be saved. People need to care enough to make changes happen.  Each part of every ecosystem impacts all other parts.

Don't miss recent books from this outstanding series:

The Hyena Scientist, Sy Montgomery, 2018.
Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World's Largest Rainforest, by Sy Montgomery, 2017
Life on Surtsey: Iceland's Upstart Island, by Loree Griffin Burns, 2017.
Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code, by Amy Cherrix, 2017

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Little Robot Alone, written by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2018. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"One night Little Robot
dreamed of a smooth, shiny
When he woke in the
morning, he had an idea!

First he put on his tracks.
One by one, tight and strong, 
rolling, strolling, all day long."

Little Robot is a visual and literary delight! He has a routine for his day at his cozy cottage. He loves the pond, and the habits that make his days sing. Like so many of us, Little Robot is not totally happy being on his own. He would love to have a friend.

Then, it happens. An idea pops into his head ... and he is on his way to something brand new.

"Little Robot bent the metal into a shape.
He used a screwdriver to attach the ends.
He worked,
and worked,
and WORKED!"

He is sure his work is done ... not quite.  He discovers there are slight changes to make. Undeterred, he carries on. Soon, he has just what he is yearning for - a companion. He is filled with joy; he welcomes this new friend with open arms and an open heart. Their days are grand, their nights warm and comfortable. It is just as Little Robot dreamed it might be.

The story is warm and peaceful. Their are no unnecessary words. The songs are most enjoyable and could easily become part of the day's conversation for young fans. Matt Phelan uses watercolors and pencil to bring Little Robot and his world to glorious life. Little Robot, with his cheery disposition, his energy, and his creative imagination, will bring a smile to your face and to all those who hear his story. 

It's a keeper!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Beastly Puzzles, written by Rachel Poliquin and illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler. Kids Can Press, 2019. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"What animal could you
make with ...

A file
Silver thread
Four sewing pins
A thimble
One foot

Here's a hint: This animal
has no ears, so it can't hear
danger coming."

I can almost hear the wheels turning as you begin to 'puzzle' out this incomplete description. The rest of the hint says: 'But that's probably for the best - it couldn't outrun a predator anyway.'

Got any guesses? Do you want me to give you the answer? There will be kids (and adults) who don't want to know, who want to take time to try to figure out the answer given the clues provided. There are likely others who know the answer right away. They are much smarter than I am, that is for certain.

"It's a garden snail! 
[Cornu aspersum | spotted horn

It's their third shell, like a whorling of a goat's horn,
that gives them their name.

Four sewing pins: 
Snails have two pairs of tentacles. Their
larger pair have a black dot at the ends -
these are eyes. Snails feel and smell with
their lower, smaller tentacles."

I could go on; but I will not.

Ms. Poliquin opens with an informative introduction, reminding readers that animals are made up of  'various bits and pieces'. Some parts are similar, some very different, and many unique to only a few. She lets those who share this book know that each has adapted to the life they lead, and that all of  'its parts work together beautifully'. Finally, she promises that knowing such things will not make the task of using her clues to name the animal easy at all. Are you ready for the challenge, do you think?

The spreads open with a question about parts. She provides a list of those particular parts, and a hint about the animal being described. Open the gatefold, and voila - you have your answer. Each of the parts is then described in connection to the animal, with an additional information box providing further data. There are 12 animals, and much to learn about them.

The settings are detailed, done in a monochromatic tones, and add interest for the guessing game.
The final pages add a historical note about those who first discovered the new species and how they described them by comparing them to what was familiar. 

"The platypus, for example, was described as a cat-sized creature that laid eggs
like a chicken, blew bubbles like a turtle, swam like a fish and had a mole's fur,
a duck's beak and the feet of a goose."

You know the kids who will eat this up!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Hey, Water, by Antoinette Portis. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Sometimes you lie
quiet and calm.


so we can splash and
play and yell in you.


I stamp my feet in you ... "

Here is another wonderful look at water, and its many delights. Pair it with Water Land (Hale, 2018) and Water Is Water (Paul, 2015) for a comprehensive look at the benefits and wonders of water in our lives.

It is a series of statements by a young girl, enthused by water's many appearances in her days. No matter where she is, water is a part of the her ... her home, her community, her world, herself. She can find it everywhere, from season to season. It is solid, liquid and gas. And this little girl knows all about it.

Ms. Portis uses sumi ink, a brush, and digital coloring to create her stunning, flowing images. The endpapers are endless, gently flowing waves that lead readers straight into the story being told. Water's many forms are clearly portrayed and noted.

Backmatter provides additional facts concerning water forms and the water cycle, offers suggestions for additional books to read, and asks readers to consider the part we can play in conserving this very precious resource.

In keeping with the sense of celebration, it ends with a heartfelt message:

"Hey, water! Thank you!"

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Dog Who Wanted to Fly, written by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Brandon James Scott. Annick Press, 2019. $21.95 ages 4 and up

"Across the sky floated a
kite. Zora grabbed a picnic
umbrella. She dashed up a
hill, and -
"Drop it! Drop it!"
Zora, a good dog, dropped
the umbrella.

Above her flew a giant
airplane. Surely if someone
as big as an airplane could
 fly ... "

Kids who love stories about dogs are going to empathize with Zora. Her most fervent wish is to catch a squirrel, a seemingly impossible enterprise. It is ALL that she wants from life. All attempts prove to be wretched failures on her part. To add insult to injury, Tully the neighborhood cat berates Zora for even considering something so silly.

Her enthusiasm unchecked, Zora persists. However, she soon must admit defeat. She can do many things; it appears flying is not one of them.

"Zora sighed.
She could jump up.
She could shake a paw.
She could roll over and take a bow.
Why couldn't she fly?"

When the cards seem stacked against her and all hope lost, the perfect opportunity for action allows her to prove her mettle.

The story itself has all the elements of a fine adventure, with a satisfying ending. Brandon James Scott adds illustrations to make it sing. Humorous and filled with memorable moments, little ones will want to return again and again to note the expressions, the movement, the peril of Tully's situation, and the brave rescue. I love the changes in perspective, and how they affect the reading.

Ms. Stinson reminds all who read this spirited book that we can do the things we set our minds to do, even when others are not so sure ... in our own time and way.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Pencil: A Story with a Point. Written by Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Dean Griffiths. Pajama Press, 2019. $19.95 ages 7 and up

"Then Pencil had a new idea.
He went back to the junk
drawer to see if Sticky Notes
would help. Pencil sketched
his idea.

"He'll get a real charge 
out of that," said Battery.

"I'd be de-light-ed to help," 
said Flashlight."

Pencil and Jackson are best of friends.Their days are filled with time spent together: creating, creating, creating. With the arrival of Tablet, Jackson is beguiled. You will know that feeling if you have one, and do might your kids. Jackson soon realizes that Pencil cannot do nearly as much as Tablet can: make movies, draw in color, message Grandma. Bummer!

When Jackson drops Pencil on the floor, he does not even realize he has done so. To add insult to injury, Pencil is picked up and chewed by the dog. And dumped in the junk drawer! Will this be a forever home for Pencil? If so, what is the 'point'?

There is a hint of hope each time the drawer is opened, and Pencil takes full advantage. Then, it happens! Jasmine decides Pencil might be just the thing she needs. Stuck behind Jasmine's ear, Pencil is assured of new life. Pencil remains hopeful that Tablet might agree to being friends. Not going to happen, it seems.

When Tablet breaks after a fall to the floor, Jackson is perplexed. What WILL he do without his tablet.


A tear rolled down Jackson's cheek.

Pencil was stumped."

Try as Pencil might, there is no cajoling Jackson into renewing their friendship. Not one to give up, Pencil gives it one last try. Eureka!

It takes a community to find a solution. The conversational puns that follow will have readers giggling and trying their hand at creating some of their own ... perfect!

The colorful, expressive digital art is humorous in all the right places.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Butterflies in Room 6, by Caroline Arnold. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House. 2019. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"In a day or so, the
chrysalises become hard.
Mrs. Best moves them to
a flight cage and pins the
paper towel to the side.
The chrysalises hang
down. Just as they would
from a leaf or a branch.
Inside each chrysalis the
pupa is transforming ... "

Writing Hatching Chicks in Room 6, (2017) was obviously a treat for Caroline Arnold as she has followed it up with this book. In a return visit to Mrs. Best's kindergarten classroom she helps readers learn about the life cycle of the painted lady butterfly.

Her action research is clearly shared through text and engaging, captioned photographs. The children in the classroom are learning about butterflies through hands-on experience, careful observation, asking questions and looking for answers, and careful leadership on the part of their teacher. It is a wonderful experience for all.

A great deal of information is shared on its well designed pages, allowing readers to see the interest, amazement, curiosity, and joy found in watching the children's faces as they see those butterflies develop. This is only possible through well documented observation of the classroom dynamic. The life cycle is carefully presented in numbered boxes. Each stage is chronicled in clear photographs, and accompanied by leaf-shaped fact boxes.

"The flight cage is made 
of soft netting. When the
butterflies come out. they
will have room to fly and
places to land."

When the butterflies are ready, each child has a chance to hold one before it spreads its wings and takes flight.

"Painted ladies are fast
flyers. Their speedy,
zigzag flight makes it
hard for birds and other
predators to catch them."

Classrooms are not the only places where butterflies can be raised. Families, too, can raise them safely. In backmatter, Ms. Arnold provides answers to Butterfly Questions, adds a Butterfly Vocabulary, offers a list of online resources as well as further reading about butterflies.

If you are interested in trying this in your classroom, or at home, here is the website in Canada for kit purchases:

And, if you are interested in knowing more about Caroline Arnold and her excellent books, here is the link to her website:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Paula Knows What to Do, by Sanne Dufft. Pajama Press, 2019. $

“I know what to do,” says Paula.
“Mommy loved to go sailing.
Will you come sailing with me?”

“But, Paula,” says Daddy. “I just
want to stay in bed.”

“Nonsense,” says Paula (exactly
the way Mommy used to say it).
“We are going sailing. Mommy
would want us to.”

Paula sits on her bed, not hearing any movement from her father in the early morning. He isn't doing any of his usual things - no footsteps, no smell of coffee in the air. When she can't wait any longer, she gets up to paint him a picture. It's a fast car, and her dad is waving through its window.

Daddy hardly notices. It's Saturday and he is too sad to get up. He is missing Paula's mother, who has died. Paula knows just how he feels. But, she has a plan. She invites her father on an adventure. When he wants to stay in bed, she encourages him to get up and go sailing with her! She knows it is what her mom would want them to do.

On the imaginary voyage, she does her best to cheer her dad up. Soon, he is using his imagination to warn of a coming storm. They battle through it, with Paula's unwavering commands. The sail, once tamed, grabs the wind and carries them aloft. When the wind dies, the two fall from the sky straight onto Dad's bed. Back from their adventure, it is Dad who knows just what to do now.

"I''ll make coffee for me and hot chocolate
for you. But today, we don't need a book.
We'll just look at your paintings again."

Gently told, visually lovely with its range of color and light, and uplifting, children will be happy to know that father and daughter can weather the storm that loss brings.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

SAY SOMETHING! by Peter H. Reynolds. Orchard Books, Scholastic. 2019. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"Sometimes you'll say something and no one will be listening.
But keep saying
what is in your heart...
...and you will find someone who listens.
Keep saying it...
...and you may be surprised
to find the whole world

Peter Reynolds has his finger on the pulse of the children who read his books. He knows that they know they can make a difference in their world, and in the greater world at large. They just need to 'say something.' It takes bravery, stepping out of a comfortable place, wanting to make the world better, and encouraging others to do the same.

The endpapers are a perfect start. At the front, the speech bubbles offer options for saying what needs to be said: I can! Let's right the wrong. Be brave. Together is better. May kindness be your compass. You've got a friend. Think green. Take a stand. 

So much that needs to be said in school, on the playground, at home - and every other place that needs to hear a child's voice expressing personal and uplifting thoughts and beliefs. In this newest book, he shows children that they can make a difference by using their voices - that one voice encourages another, that people will listen when they are saying important things.

His readers are told right from the beginning that 'the world needs your voice'. Every turn of the page  offers advice on ways to use it. There are many ways to let the world know how you are feeling, and what you believe. Each scene asks readers to take action. If someone is lonely, be there for them. If you see a space that would support a flower or community garden, get some friends and some seed and make it happen. Share the beauty of the world in poetry. If you are angry, tell someone why. Inspire others to search for peaceful solutions to problems faced. It is not easy, but it is important. Every one has a voice; find a way to use it.

The artwork is signature Peter Reynolds - bright colors, speech bubbles, small details that attract attention, hand-lettered text, and compassion. Facing pages show what happens before, and then after a choice is made. It is a celebration!

The endpapers at the end of the book encourage further action with this message, and a series of speech bubbles meant to be filled in by the reader:

"Your voice can
inspire, heal, and transform.
Your voice can change the world.

Are you ready to
say something?"

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Manuelito, written by Elisa Amado and illustrated by Abraham Urias. Annick Press, 2019. $19.99 ages 12 and up

"Adela, can we send him to you?
The gangs are going after all the 
boys. It's too dangerous for him 
here. He's too little. 

Should we send Rosita, too? 
Are you crazy? NO!!!

Adela - I think we found a 
coyote for Manuelito. He's 
coming with Coco Loco."

Fearing for their 13-year-old son's life, Manuelito's parents make arrangement with his aunt in the USA to send him to her. By doing so, they hope to protect him from the gangs who are preying on young boys in their Guatemalan town. It is a familiar story for many in Central America, and has been getting much press on the American side of the border.

The family hires a coyote who promises to get Manuelito and his friend Coco Loco to their destination. Doing as much as possible to provide for his safety, the parents watch him board a bus and leave. The boys are very excited, and looking forward to a new start away from the gangs and terror of their home. As they travel, they realize that their coyote is not to be trusted. Coco Loco is angry with him and shows it. It is his undoing.

Left alone in a stifling hot cement hut, Manuelito is without his phone, and dreaming of his family. In the morning, hungry and frightened he looks out to see a girl nearby. She and her Honduran family are also headed to the Mexican border. They offer support and hope.

"The Senoras told me that after we crossed the river,
I had to go to the border patrol myself  and tell them I
was seeking "asylum" because my life was in danger."

Jailed with many other children, and then sent to a holding center where he could wait to go to his Tia Adela's home in Long Island, Manuelito meets up with Jenny and her family once again. They go to classes, and spent time together awaiting transfer to their sponsoring family. There are definitely bumps along the way.

"The director called us all together. She said she was
heartbroken, but there was no more money from the
new government and the center had to close. They
gave me a book, some papers, sandwiches, and some
clothes. Then they took me to a bus."

Happy to be with his aunt, going to a new school, and meeting friends, he is stunned with ICE comes to the door and sends both back to their homeland. This is a story that needs to be shared, to help students and teachers understand the adversity these children face, at home and as refugees.

The first person narrative of a child caught in the terror that 100.000 Central American children are now experiencing is powerful, blunt, and current. There are no unnecessary words. The black and white graphic images deftly convey the many emotions felt as the trip is made.

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Friend For Henry, written by Jenn Bailey and illustrated by Mika Song. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"During Snack Time, Jayden took
three crackers instead of two.

At Recess, Riley dug up worms
and let them use the swings.

At Free Time, Henry's hope for a
friend felt small. He watched the
sunlight play along Gilly's scales.
He could watch Gilly for a long
time. Katie watched, too."

This is a book I almost want to whisper when I am reading it in a classroom. It feels as if it needs to be quietly told. There are a few spots when anger pushes the reader to a more dramatic turn, but mostly it is quiet and contemplative.

Henry is looking for a friend; it is a difficult task for a child on the autism spectrum. He loves the classroom pet, Gilly. He knows Gilly cannot be one of his friends; Henry needs a friend who will play with him in class and on the playground. He carefully considers his options. Too many of his classmates don't meet Henry's needs. A friend for Henry can't be too colorful, too forward, too noisy, unconcerned about classroom and playground rules, or too brave.

As he and Katie spend quiet time watching Gilly, he notices important things about Katie. The most important is that she also likes Gilly. That is enough to encourage Henry to ask her to play. As they build with blocks, they share their dislikes, they listen to one another, and they work quietly beside one another. It is an important step toward friendship for Henry. Perhaps they will spend more time together, doing other things.

Soft ink and watercolor illustrations assure that readers are able to read the emotions felt. They are as sensitive and thoughtful as the story itself.  Henry's perspective is beautifully shared, and offers readers help in understanding the way he thinks.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Little Guys, by Vera Brosgol. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 4 and up

"We can lift things that weigh
more than we do.
No sweat for the Little Guys.

We can climb the tallest tree
there is.

Easy peasy for the Little Guys."

Love these tiny creatures - full of bravado, and not afraid to sound like bullies. They profess to be 'the strongest guys in the whole forest'. They might be right! There are a lot of them, and they do not lack tenacity. Using leaves as their transport across the pond, and sticking together, hand-in-hand, they proceed to find the food they need to keep them hale and hearty.

On the way, they create chaos for other forest dwellers, and they do not care. They roll a family of chipmunks from their log, a mama owl from her nest, a fox from its burrow, and dump a brown bear into its fishing lake, taking all of their food as they go about piling up a stash that requires a turn of the book to the horizontal. They may be small, but they are MIGHTY!

Stealing a berry from the beak of a tiny bird is the last straw, and their greed does them in. Who will help them?

Kids will giggle at the first person narrative, watching these wee creatures stomping their way through the forest without fear. They might also be surprised at the generosity of the many forest creatures who have lost so much, when the tide turns, and it does turn. And, their hearts will lighten to know that perhaps the Little Guys have learned an important lesson.

Vera Brosgol has created a warmhearted tale that surprises - with tiny, bearded characters whose actions clearly concern the animals who share their forest home. It is perfect for reading aloud with little ones, and offers opportunity for discussion about community and working together for the good of all.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Better Together, by Nikki Tate. Orca Book Publishers. 2018. $19.95 ages 10 and up

"Schools are much more than places to learn to read or study math or science. Learning to get along with others is important too, and students can explore things they may not have access to at home - like art, drama, woodworking, cooking or dance. Sometimes, passions discovered at school develop into long-term career paths."

Sharing this book in a middle years classroom, teacher to students, could have an impact on the classroom, and also on the greater school community. As she has done in other books written for this useful Orca Footprints series, Nikki Tate did her research and presents it in a way that is both informational and inspiring.

In her introduction she asks readers to see the many similarities that exist between families and communities around the world. In the first of four chapters, she talks about The First Community - the nuclear family. Children need and deserve to have many of the same things: safe housing, an education, health care, clean water and enough food to sustain them. Families are very different from one another. Community Fact, Love This!, Let's Work Together, I Believe In Love, and numerous captioned photos add important stories and details to impact readers and offer ideas for making a small difference in their own families and communities.

In Chapter Two, In the 'Hood, she describes neighborhoods around the world and introduces readers to the many ways people are changing their neighborhoods for the better. Chapter 3 moves to communities based on 'religious ideas, race, or ethnicity'. It also includes teams, school groups, and any other group that finds commonality in one area of life. Finding support within these varied communities can be difficult, but also empowering.

"In fact, it is possible to move between communities, to belong to more than one group at a time and to find common bonds with many different kinds of people at different points in time. What is always important is to be respectful and sensitive about other community members and how they feel about belonging to a particular group."

In the final chapter she moves to the global community, discussing the United Nations, the Red Cross, and other collaborations that work to make life better for those in need of help and support. This need for connection and kindness is a powerful impetus for everyone to make a change in the world, no matter how big or small. It starts with us - one step at a time. 

Students will enjoy the many excellent photos. In browsing through the text, they may also find a project that speaks to them. A teacher sharing just one idea might inspire the class to take a step toward a community project that will unite and inspire others to do the same.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Good Egg, written by Jory John and illustrated by Pete Oswald. Harper, 2019. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Meanwhile, I tried to take

I tried to fix their bad

I tried to keep the

Because I was a good

I know this from growing up with my younger brother ... it's hard to be 'the good egg'. Do it for a while, and it is soon expected of you.

Following up on the success of The Bad Seed (2017), Jory John and Pete Oswald have collaborated on this equally funny, and most welcome, new book about an opposite character. The not bad, but good, part of all children to whom it is sure to appeal. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with young kids know there are two sides to every one of them. They can go from smiling angel to screeching banshee in no time at all, while we are left to try to determine what just happened to instigate such a reversal of roles. It can happen within minutes, and often more than one time a day.

So, here comes The Good Egg, obviously the opposite of The Bad Seed, met and loved two years ago already. It assures the reader from page one of its demeanor ... A verrrrrry good egg. Its many kind acts include rescuing a cat from a tree, carrying groceries, changing tires. No job is too big, or too small. Good from the beginning, when bought from the farmer's market, it has kept company with eleven other eggs of varying temperament. The others are behaviorally challenged, and offer constant chaos for their carton mate.

Despite many offers to improve their course of action, the good egg finally cracks. And leaves! Peace at last, and needed time spent seeking a new way of life. Healing happens, and life returns to some sense of normalcy. Realizing perfection is not the goal, the egg returns home. Things haven't changed much, but that's OK!

It is a perfect combination of text and illustration that will have kids giggling, and perhaps pondering the importance (or not) of being perfect. Unpossible!

Both books are worthy of a place on family, classroom and library shelves. Don't miss them!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Nanna's Button Tin, written by Dianne Wolfer and illustrated by Heather Potter. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2017. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"We start sorting the buttons.
The button I'm looking for
needs to be just the right size,
just the right shape, and just
the right color.

Nanna holds up a tiny yellow
circle. "This one is special, "
she says. "It was on the
jacket you wore home from
the hospital."

I remember my mom's button tin. It was an old tobacco tin with a lid that was bent and had to be pried off. It was filled with buttons taken from old clothes, given to her by others, and added to at every opportunity. You never knew when you might need to replace a button, and could only hope there would be one similar to the one needed. Otherwise, it was replace every one of them. I am not sure where that button tin is now; I suspect I took it to my kindergarten class for a sorting center.

Heather Potter's quiet and delightful gouache illustrations offer a close look at a visit with grandparents. The child narrator expresses her love for the button tin, and the many stories it tells.  Pop reads to a little brother, and the other two search through the spilled buttons to find a 'special one for Teddy'.

As they sort, Nanna offers stories from their lives, where the buttons first made an appearance. While Teddy seems to express concern that they are dawdling, the two are sure they will find just the right one to solve his problem. Finally, the perfect button is found, Nanna sews it on while Teddy is told a comforting story to calm his fears. Voila, operation complete. The button tin is returned to its place of importance until the next time a button is needed.

Every spread, including the endpapers, is worth a close look. Some of the double page spreads are divided to include the memory placed beside the present day. Others show the shared search and the work done to bring Teddy back to good health. All are meaningful and lovely.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Paws and Edward, written by Espen Dekko and illustrated by Mari Kanstad Johnsen. Kids Can Press, 2019. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"It's chilly outside.
Paws knows where they're
His pace is nice and easy.
Paws doesn't feel the urge
to run anymore.
He has run enough.
Sometimes on their walks,
Edward meets someone he
Paws likes that. It means he
gets to rest."

When I received this warm picture book in the mail yesterday, I called my son and read some of the opening pages to him. I knew that he would appreciate its sentiment, for he is the proud and loving companion to an English bulldog named Ed. The two are as inseparable as they can be. Spending their days and nights together brings pure happiness to both.

And their daily outings are summed up in the words shared here:

"Paws is dreaming.
Dreaming about rabbits.
He used to chase them.
Now he only dreams about them.
Paws is glad that Edward is reading.
That means he doesn't have to go out.
They go out twice a day.
That's more than enough for Paws." 

In truth, my two go out three times a day ... morning, late afternoon, and just before bed. Warm days encourage longer treks; these freezing cold winter days we have been experiencing not so much. A quick touchdown, getting his business done, and Ed is straight back inside to his nest on the sofa.
Spit! Spot! No need for meandering.

They support each other in daily pursuits and are content to do so. A walk is pleasant; there is no longer a need for a run. Chasing a stick not likely. It would be my son's job to find it again. Soon, there is nothing Paws wants to do more than to sleep and dream. He has no need for food, or water ... or anything else. Edward knows why, and is sad to lose his best friend.

It is a great loss. Edward misses Paws at home, and while he is out. Paws is not there, except in his dreams - that will have to suffice.

The illustrations provide warmth and strong feelings throughout the telling. Paws takes up the majority of the space on each double page spread, showing readers his importance for Edward and his value to life. Love is evident between the two through expression, close contact, and the grief felt when Paws breathes his final breath.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik! By Roselynn Akulukjuk and Danny Christopher. Illustrated by Astrid Arijanto. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2018. $6.95 ages 5 and up

"Look how weird these are.

Okay, this is a little strange. 

I think you mean very strange.

Hey, that looks like her knapsack 
over there. 

This is getting stranger by the

The oral tradition of the Inuit people is strong. Children are told stories by their elders from the time they are very young. Some of the stories are meant to warn the children away from danger. In this story about the sea ice of Arviq Bay, the children have been warned by their grandfather that terrifying creatures lurk beneath the water.

Qalupaliit are such creatures. It is said that If children play too close to the water, they will rise up and snatch the children from their play. Putuguq and Kublu are sure that the stories are true. Their grandfather told them so, after all. In this second graphic novel about Arviq Bay (a community created for this series) they romp freely in their tundra home. Young readers will enjoy hearing the traditional stories as they follow the brother and sister on a series of mischievous adventures.

Accessible and informative for young readers, it will make those who read it ask the same questions as the two siblings. Is their grandfather telling them the truth, or is he just trying to spoil their fun? A strange and ultimately satisfying encounter at the shore line scares them until they realize it is their friend Lisa playing a trick on them. After looking back at where they came from, Putuguq is not so sure the trick tells the full story.

There are clues to the answer in the illustrations done by Astrid Arijanto. Careful consideration will be given to dialogue and expressions as their story is shared. Humorous and cultural, kids who read this story will be keen to find a copy of the first one, which gives an even  clearer picture of the two main characters - Putuguq and Kublu (Inhabit Media, 2017).

Monday, March 4, 2019

Goodnight, Anne. Written by Kallie George and illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"But I forgave Mrs. Rachel Lynde.
and she forgave me. We both
speak our minds and should mind
what we say. So goodnight, Mrs.
Lynde, dear nosy neighbor.

And goodnight, Miss Stacy,
my splendid teacher.

(When she says my name,
I just know she's spelling it
with an e.)

If you are a fan of Anne of Green Gables, and you want to spark an interest in the younger generation, this perfectly beautiful book might be just the ticket to conversation and a peaceful night's slumber. It is magical, and is sure to find a place on the 'to-be- read every night' pile of bedtime books you want to share.

Anne's story has been read throughout the world, giving readers hours of pleasure in getting the know the feisty redhead from Prince Edward Island, adopted by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Their life together is filled with characters to love or not, situations that help to make Anne the person she is meant to be, and Anne's often rebellious and challenging nature. She has a mind of her own, a real sense of adventure, and a way of tugging at heartstrings over and over again.

Kallie George includes just enough detail to give listeners a sense of Anne's story, and to encourage questions and discussion. Genevieve Gadbout's splendid illustrations enhance every single goodnight Anne shares with those she loves and the natural world for which she has such admiration. I love the many delicate details she infuses into every double page spread!

"Or would you rather live in a tree?
I do love trees.

A wild cherry would make
a wonderful bed."

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Going Wild: Helping Nature Thrive in Cities. Written by Michelle Mulder. Orca Book Publishers. 2018. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"My daughter's favorite part of our local playground is the wooded area around it - with a bushy area to build forts in, trees to climb, and plenty of food! Happily, our city does not spray with pesticides, and in June my daughter and I love picking salmonberries. Then come thimbleberries, and later blackberries. Lately we've been learning about other native plants we can eat, and now ... "

If you have other books from the Orca Footprints series, you will be happy to add this one to your collection. You will already be familiar with the design, the purpose, and the wealth of information that is shared in these books. Written for kids in middle school and up, they provide useful, informative text accompanied by clear and appealing photographs

Michelle Mulder uses her research skills to let readers know why getting out into nature is a meaningful pursuit - "it is both fun and good for your health". Her introduction includes an information box called Making Tracks. In it she reveals one important part of the abundant research she conducted.

"While I was writing this book, I tried to spend at least half an hour a day enjoying nature. My daughter and I cloud-gazed in a meadow, listened to red-winged blackbirds sing in a bog, poked around beaches and watched pods of orcas frolic in the waves."

Early humans were at one with nature, consuming its bounty and doing what needed to be done to preserve the land they depended on for life. With progress and agricultural development, many moved to the cities. Clearing the land pushed animals away from these newly established developments. Today, urban areas are looking for ways to go 'back to nature' and to welcome that natural world in  urban surroundings.

Following her introduction, Ms. Mulder pens four separate, but connected, chapters to describe how we can work to bring nature back to our cities. She begins with Paving the Way and explains the changes over time, citing the variety of inventions that have encouraged progress and adaptations made to accommodate so many changes.  Nature finds a way to thrive despite our attempts to eliminate it.

"We've tried with traps, pesticides, and even with guns,
but the natural habitat keeps creeping in, often in ways that
scare us. Now many cities are trying a different approach.
What if, instead of fighting wild nature off, we invite it in?"

She does her best to explain what has happened, what is happening, and what might still happen if we work together to make a stronger connection to the world we live in. There are many ways for each of us to get involved, and to encourage others to do the same.

Readers will find the information boxes, Making Tracks and Wild Fact, informative and often quite surprising. In back matter, the author includes a list of resources, acknowledgements, a glossary and an index. Her conversational writing makes the information provided accessible to the target audience and relevant to those wanting to make the world a better place.

It really is up to us to find ways to think seriously about the health of the planet, our cities, and ultimately, ourselves. Urban spaces can become friendlier for all nature. We just have to have a plan! 

 “Because no matter how much our cities usually separate us from the rest of nature, we humans are still part of the natural world ...”

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Princess Puffybottom ... and Darryl. Written by Susin Nielsen and illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Princess Puffybottom knew
he would not last.
Darryl would be banished.
It was only a matter of time.
So she waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, the day arrived."

This will not be the first time you have read and enjoyed a story about interlopers! If you have pets, you may have experienced pretty much the same thing in your own home. You likely haven't heard it told with the charm and humor of the story told here.

Princess Puffybottom is leading the good life - a perfect, pampered princess of a cat with not a worry in her world. Her life is orderly, quiet, and mutually happy! Darryl's arrival puts a quick end to all that has happened before him. There is nothing endearing about anything that he does as far as the Princess is concerned. She knows his behaviors will get him in big trouble and her worries will soon be over.

Or, will they?

A visit to the vet leaves Darryl with a neck cone, and an uptick in the attention he is given. Puffybottom is having none of it, and does everything she can do to eliminate his presence in her family and home.

"She tried hypnosis.

She tried trickery.

She tried sabotage."

Nothing makes a difference; the princess gives in to losing her spot in the household hierarchy and hides herself under a chair. Only Darryl notices what is happening. Might this be the truce that is needed ... before the arrival of yet another interloper?

A charmer of a new take on this age-old dilemma for the first pet'. This fine tale will attract readers with its humor, its terrific characters, and a few surprises.

Telling details in Ms. Mueller's digitally created illustrations offer clues throughout, and the final spread offers a twist that will much appreciated by all. With Darryl by her side, Princess Puffybottom is sure to be less apprehensive this second time around.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Meet My Family! Animal Babies and Their Families. Written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. Millbrook Press, Thomas Allen & Son. 2018. $ 24.99 ages 4 and up

"I'm solo, day and night. 

When I hatched from my egg,
many other hatchlings crowded
the sandy beach. We hurried
toward the water and were
swept away in swirling waves.
Now I swim alone in the ocean.

green sea turtle hatchling"

Kids love to learn about animals, about babies, and about their families. The animals described in this book by the talented Laura Purdie Salas live throughout the world. Readers should have familiarity with most creatures chosen; some will be more familiar than others.

The design is efficient, allowing young readers to settle and take in all of the information provided. An introductory line is shown in bold face, and offers a hint about the animal presented. The text is clear, and concise. The families differ, as do the way the babies are raised. Each of the babies is described by the name they are called in a printed label on every spread.

Digital paintings, done in Photoshop, allow a close look at the habitat and the family itself.  It will interest young readers that the ways in which these baby animals are cared for have similarities within their own family. Adoption, same-sex parenting are a natural part of these animal groups. The concluding double page spread shows variety in human families:

"Every family's different -
each family is just right!
We live in every kind of
family you can think of!"

End matter includes a glossary , a world map with notes concerning where each animal lives, an author's note, and a list for further reading.

A worthwhile addition to a classroom library where nonfiction is an important focus.