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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

This Poem Is A Nest, written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Johanna Wright. Wordsong, Pengin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 10 and up

 


"HIDDEN TREASURE STORY

This poem has gemnstones, 

pirates and feast

glittery gold

      and a ladder - 

time now to stop, 

ask, why mouse-squeak?"

In Part I, Irene Latham writes four seasonal poems, collectively called NEST.  Her premise is to then use these poems to provide words and phrases for each 'nested' written for Part II. The first four poems describe a robin's nest from building, to nestlings, to fledglings, to independence, to the abandoned nest being used by a squirrel as a haven from winter's chill. The first three lines of the spring poem parallel the first three lines of the winter poem, with slight changes made to describe the nest's different inhabitants. 

From those poems, the accomplished Ms. Latham goes on to pen 161 'nestlings' poems - all created from the original NEST. Each of the short 'found' poems deal with a variety of themes: time, color my world, animals among us, only human, for the love of words, places seen and unseen, and (out of) time. Quite the incredible accomplishment.

Each is titled; some titles are longer than the poems themselves. Only those title words are not found in the initial poetry.  

'THE POWER OF IMAGINATION 

turtle tucked in moonlight

makes cathedral 

inside"

"DANCING

wordless flight 

of heartbeat 

and feet

I found myself going back again and again to find the 'nestlings' and be amazed by the rich language. In Tips From a Nest-Builder: How to Find Nestlings, the poet gives clear instructions for choosing the nest with care, and then doing the research needed to find the words, play with them, write carefully, and let them go. This is wonderful guidance for teachers and students wanting to explore poetry and to try writing found poems of their own. An index of poem titles follows, allowing readers to go back to their favorites.

Inspirational! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Robobaby, written and illustrated by David Wiesner. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast, 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up





"Diode, babies have 
gotten a lot more
complicated since
we built Cathode. 

Oh, Lugnut, how 
hard can it be?"

Cathode's new baby brother comes in a box, with instructions and updates for assembly. His name is Flange, and Cathode is at the ready to help assemble him with her own tools. Her mother, Mother Lugnut, takes it upon herself to do the building. When Flange is completed, there is a major problem. The family needs help, and calls for it. 

Uncle Manifold is quick to arrive. Once again, Cathy is left on the sidelines with her tools. Manny assumes the role of 'expert'. Hmm - it seems Cathy is the only robot observing that there are directions to be followed. Maybe the others should have listened. Not installing updates leads to bedlam when Flange becomes uncontrollable. 

"He needs a complete overhaul." 

It's Sprocket, the family dog, to the rescue. Sprocket catches up with Flange and brings him back. Finally, Cathy is able to prove to the family what she has known all along. Flange is settled thanks to her ministrations. Love, love, love the surprise ending! 

As he constantly does, David Wiesner wows with his visual storytelling. He packs every spread with fascinating detail, visual puzzles, a winning cast of characters, polished speech bubbles, clean lines, and a most engaging story. All the llight in the artwork comes from the floor, and provides a wonderful warm feeling throughout the telling. Goofy, yet perfect. 
                                                                         

                                                                           

Monday, September 28, 2020

Dragon Hoops, written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $26.99 ages 14 and up


"The player-coach relationship is really 
special. I'm not sure there's an equivalent
for comic book nerds.

When I was a kid, most of my heroes
were fictional. But I guess that has its 
advantages, too. You can count on 
Superman to always be Superman, 
you know.

I knew Gene Luen Yang's graphic work from the exceptional Boxers and Saints (2006). Because of my interest in sports and admiration for his work, I was pretty sure that I was going to enjoy this new book about his high school's varsity men's basketball team. Not a team he played for; he was a teacher at the school when he decided to share the team's story. More recognized for his aversion to sports, he decided he wanted to learn more about basketball and the team, that in 2015, had long been recognized for 'just missing' a win at the state championship. This was to be their year: they were on the brink of finally making it a winning season. While he had a lot on his plate - writing, teaching, raising a family - Mr. Yang decided it was time to follow the team and see what they could do. 

It's a great story to tell, and the graphic format is perfect for telling it. The team was struggling in their ninth bid to win a championship, and the artwork adds to the drama of every game that season, He effectively uses this nonfiction format to show the players in action, and at rest. Play-by-play accounts of their games, the lives of the players, and basketball itself play an important role. The very close look at the recognition of their players in world communities are both informative and engaging.   

He clearly chronicles the entire 2015 season, as well as providing a history of the game itself. While doing so, he shows his audience how his own life changed, taking him from reluctant journalist to avid fan. Interspersed through the telling, he adds family notes and we come to understand how the writing is affecting his own life as he pens this brilliant and personal story. Sports fans will be delighted! 

Back matter has Mr. Yang explaining his art and some of the choices he made for the book chapter-by-chapter. It makes for an even more appealing read, as readers can go back and have a closer look. He includes a useful bibliography as well. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Blue Daisy, written by Helen Frost and illustrated by Rob Shepperson. Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2020. $21.99 ages 8 and up

 


"It's raining hard and I can't get to sleep. 
Blue Daisy should be my dog! Or maybe Katie's. 
We're the ones who like her best. I keep 

thinking how she wouldn't have 
a name if we hadn't painted a daisy on her back. 
I made her a dog bed, and Mom let me save

a whole hamburger for her. Now 
she won't even get one little bite. 
The Tracy twins! I don't see how

she could choose them instead of us." 

Neighbors Sam and Katie are surprised, and curious, when an stray dog shows up in their neighborhood one summer's day. They are also worried as it skinny, collarless, and very dirty. The two follow it, watching when it is chased from a neighborhood flower garden. Next, they worry as they see the mean Tracy twins follow the dog on their bikes, while throwing rocks at it.

The dog is soon nowhere to be found, even though the four are doing their best to discover where it has gone. When they find it in Sam's back yard, Sam and Katie play a mean trick on it. They paint a blue daisy on the poor dog's back. Suddenly, everyone notices the dog because of the marking, and that is how she gets her name. 

In alternating first person voices - Katie's in prose and Sam's in verse - we are privy to all the action and to the feelings aroused by the dog's arrival in their neighborhood. When Blue Daisy shows    preference for being with the Tracy twins, they are both astonished and upset. In the end, Blue Daisy finds a new home and the four young people who love her find new friendship. Everyone wins! 

This is an accessible new novel for those longing to read early chapter books. Its focus is community, friendship, emotions, perspective and thoughtfulness. Back matter includes two very special cookie recipes from Mr. Jenkins, and an author's note explaining the writing styles. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Go With The Flow, by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann. First Second, Roaring Brook,. Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $20.50 ages 12 and up

"Fifty cents? Who even carries around quarters? Who's going to have that on hand if it's an emergency? The more I think about it, the more I think this is a real health issue. The school can buy brand-new uniforms for the football team, but they're charging us fifty cents for tampons that they can't even bother restocking? How are we supposed to focus on school if we're worried about leaking through our pants?"

If you have never been a girl in middle or high school, you have no understanding of the angst felt by Sasha Chen on her first day at Hazelton High. Being new is tough enough: trying to navigate hallways, notice all the posted invitations to join teams, and keep a low profile makes her day trying. 

On her second day, she notices that the response to her by other students is amped up. They are laughing, and looking at her with revulsion. Luckily three girls who are already friends (Abby, Brit and Christine) notice, and take her under their protection to the washroom where they tell her period has leaked through her white pants. To add to the embarrassment already felt by Sasha, there are no period protection products available for purchase in the washroom. The machines are empty. 

Abby is furious and makes it her mission to find out why, and to make a case for free feminine products for the half of the student body that experiences monthly periods. The principal puts no stock in her complaint, suggesting that she deal with her own 'little problem'. The girls decide they will do something more about the problem. Abby carries their protest a bit too far, and causes a rift with the group. 

Using a red-hued tone for the graphic artwork is empowering for those who will read this very accomplished novel. Perhaps it will give them impetus to have a say when they know that things need to change. Together they can try to change what is happening where they are, and for others experiencing the same injustice. The four girls are unique in height, color, race and body type. They share opinions, difficulties, expectations, and a clear goal. Their friendship remains strong; although each is dealing with issues of her own.

Frank, emotional and exploring a subject rarely discussed in young adult literature, their story has power and should be read by many. Awkward for many, but necessary for all. 
                                                                                    

Friday, September 25, 2020

Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us, by Lauren Castillo.Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House. 2020. $22.99 ages 7 and up

"Mole put her arm around Hedgehog
and told Owl all about what had 
happened to Mutty. 

"What does your friend look like?"
asked Owl. He pulled out a pen 
and a notebook, ready to take notes. 

"I can draw him," said Hedgehog. 
Hedgehog borrowed Owl's pen 
and notebook." 

I know many young readers who will love Lauren Castillo's early years novel as it reveals a lasting love for others, and the joys of friendship. I hope this initial adventure for the "Us" this tale introduces will not be their last. They are an endearing group. 

Hedgehog and her friend Mutty are inseparable. They live together on Hedgehog's Island and spend every waking minute together. In the chaos of a Terrible Storm, Mutty is blown off the island and out of Hedgehog's sight. Hedgehog has never felt so alone. Determined to find her friend, and knowing she can swim from her island to the mainland, she sets off. Unfortunately, finding Mutty is easier said than done. Fortunately, the mainland is awash with kind and gentle beings who are just what Hedgehog needs. 

She first meets Mole; whose offer of friendship and love takes her through underground tunnels to Owl. Owl's keen eyesight does not result in discovery. However, Owl thinks if they make their way to Beaver's dam, Beaver may know something. Beaver does have Mutty's red scarf; he found it. It was near Hen's house. Enduring a few mishaps as they raft downriver, they finally arrive at the Marsh, home to Hen and her Chicks. So, it goes until the lost is found, and a new group of friends know their lives are forever changed. 

Honest, endearing and accessible for young readers, this book is sure to become a family favorite. The endpapers provide a map of the community, and the author has adorned many pages with winning illustrations that hold attention and assure that readers will not forget the memorable characters who become 'us'.  A gentle book that honors friendship, tells a find story, and heralds hope for more adventure in the future.  

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Sometimes People March, written and illustrated by Tessa Allen. Harper, 2020. $21.99 ages 4 and up

 


"Sometimes people carry signs to share 
their stories of resistance. 

People resist in many ways. 

Sometimes people resist with their voices. 
They resist with words
or with songs
or art.

Helping kids understand what is happening in their world is often helped by reading books that are relevant and accessible. The political protests that are a major part of our news feeds these days are often hard to digest, even for adults. 

In her debut book as both author and illustrator, Tessa Allen allows her readers to see the necessity for getting together to make a difference in the world. She speaks simply about the need to have a say when injustices require a response. Many historical events are presented in simple text and with delicate, thoughtful artwork as a reminder to those sharing the book. 

There are a multitude of ways in which we can make the change we want to see in the world. She shows the many who have gone before us to serve as mentors to take action. Whether it's done through art, song, individual actions, or walking with others to show support and allegiance, she lets us know that taking a stand is a very important response. 

Ink and watercolor images portray people of all ethnicities, religions, historical times, ages, sizes, communities, sexual orientations, and more. Although those actions may start small, they are all meant to show ourselves and the world that together we can make an impact. There is much to see here, and many clever signs that beg attention. 

Back matter briefly describes 'movements, marches and key figures' in the illustrations created. This is an excellent addition to the growing group of books written to encourage young people to make their voices heard, and to take their place among those who want to make changes in the world. Just as ants, and bands march, so do people. We can be a part of those marches. It is not easy, but it is worth it! 

 “People march for the freedom to love and live and learn.” 
                                                                              

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A New Green Day, by Antoinette Portis. Neil Porter, Holiday House. Penguin Random House. 2020. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"I'm a map of my own
green home.
Follow my roads
and climb,"

says leaf. 

"When I move,
I measure.
I'll count our tickles
across your hand,"

How lovely it is to have a new book by Antoinette Portis arrive at my front door! She proves every time she puts pen to paper, and creates mixed media images to accompany her inviting words, that she knows the hearts and minds of young children. 

In this new book, she celebrates summer with tempting words that encourage her readers to listen carefully, and make guesses to solve the riddles she poses. With each turn of the page, the riddle unfolds into a clever solution. What an invitation she provides for critical thinking! 

A little girl is enticed from bed by sunlight, and then invited to take note of clues provided to really look at her surroundings. Filled with the goodness of the natural world, she moves from space to space within her own back yard, and then her neighborhood. She is invited to use her senses at every turn. Hearing the call of a cricket, feeling the wispy movement of an inchworn on her finger, seeing the flash of lightning, feeling the splash of rain and ooze of mud, she ends her day in awesome starlight. What an amazing journey through a summer's day! 

The mixed media artwork honors the colors of the natural world, and offers textures that encourage young readers to reach out to touch the beauty of the images. The interactive nature of the riddles themselves will encourage talk concerning more than one answer with older children while little ones will be in awe of the beauty found right where they live. 

"I'm the rumble 
in the stomach of the storm. 
(Pardon me - 
must be something I ate), "
                                                                              

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

EELS: The Superpower Field Guide. Written by Rachel Poliquin and illustrated by Nicholas John Frith. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2020. $12.99 ages 10 and up

" ... "Is there anything more to know?"

You bet your buttons there is! Imagine
this: While this eel is just a baby half
as big as your pinkie finger, she swam
300 million times the length of her body. If I'm doing my math right, and if you're about four feet tall, that's the same as you travelling all the way to the moon! 
"Impossible!" you say.
I say, "You don't know eels."


If you are one of those people who don't know eels, fear not! You soon will. So long as you pick up this book, settle yourself in a chair and spend the next hour or two digesting all of the information provided concerning Olenka, an ordinary eel. Or so you think. In truth, she has many superpowers and you are about to learn all about them.

Here they are: oxygen skin, wall crawling, slimetastic safety shield, double invisibility, shape-shifting, supersecret lair of the abyss, globe-spanning grit, ocean-stealth submarine mode, four-nostriled navigation, and the magnetic head. As she has done in previous superpower field guides (Beavers, Moles, Ostriches), Ms. Poliquin first introduces the subject for her new book. It is evident she has done extensive research. She then moves on to describe, chapter by chapter, each of the amazing traits promised.

I had no idea! I thought of eels in the way I would guess most people think of them: snakelike, drab, rarely seen. Olenka is described in that way, in the beginning.

"Her back is an ordinary fishy-brown color. Her belly is fishy yellow. She's about two and a half feet long (76 centimeters), which is not too big and not too small. In fact, everything about Olenka is perfectly, plainly, boringly ordinary."

NOT! Olenka is a European Eel and her talents are many, and quite literally heroic as you will learn when you read this book. Always informative, never ever boring, it is a reading experience that astonishes with well-researched information and humorous tidbits. If you are a fan of the others in this series, you will not be surprised to be equally impressed while learning about eels.

FYI: The final page has big news! Ms. Poliquin hints that there are more humble heroes on the horizon for us to read about: Barnabus the Warthog, Twombly the Termite and Pepper the Least Weasel. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to meet them.

Monday, September 21, 2020

On Account of the Gum, written and illustrated by Adam Rex. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 5 and up




"Okay:
We went on some websites. 
And all of them swear 
        if you have to get scissors
                      and gum out of hair
you take two sticks of butter
        and smear them along,  
                                    and ... "

The reader knows before this story begins that there is real trouble on the horizon. Just before sleep, the young protagonist blows a bubble. Once asleep, the gum finds its way out of her mouth. Oh, dear! 

An unknown narrator is quick to notice and let the disgruntled girl know she has a problem. Explaining what has been tried and did not work, the narrator begins to share more and more zany ideas for removing first the scissors that got stuck in the gum; then the butter and scissors that are now stuck. The child's expression clearly displays her displeasure with failed advice. 

"Don't give me that look." 

An aunt, her grandpa. a rabbit, a cat, a vacuum, a cake. All suggestions result in this early morning causing a great deal of distress for someone who just wants to get ready for school. Each accompanying illustration ups the chaos caused when taking advice not solicited. The final straw is the arrival of firemen who bring hoses, a dog and some chili. She has had enough: STOP! then, GET OUT!  Please ... 

What a surprise when the gum gets up and gets out, not at all appreciating the girl's rude outburst. What happens next? you ask.  A surprise ending will have listeners chortling, and begging for a repeat read.  What could be better than that? 
                                                      
                                                                            

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Let's Get Sleepy! Written and illustrated by Tony Cliff. Imprint, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Let's climb up a tree and survey the whole street. 

Let's not close our eyes till our search is complete. 

We can get on our bikes so we cover more ground. 

Where can that mouse be? Where could he be found?"

This is the just kind of story that kids love to read and share! It begins with a cat who loves adventure, and its diligent quest to find Sleepy, 'The Prince of the Night'. Sleepy is a tiny mouse, and nowhere to be found at the moment. That is all the incentive needed to spur a band of intrepid felines to take up the search and make their way from scene to scene in their community, always on the lookout for their intended victim. 

Every turn of the page provides a crowded scene, overflowing with details and exhibiting a brand-new setting. The number of cats presented is quite phenomenal and will have readers eagerly searching to find the right ones. Sleepy is there as well, each and every time. They move from a street in the neighborhood, to a weekend parade, to a sandy beach, to a chilly mountaintop, to a warm and sultry swamp, to the dingy slug caves ... even to the moon. In each setting, the observant child will find Sleepy, 'The King of Moonlight'. 

By the time they return home from their space journey, the fourteen pursuers are annoyed and extremely tired. In the end, they do have stories to share:

"I got some new friends, got to lead a parade. 

I got sand down my shorts and got lost in a cave. 

I got snow in my socks, got to ride a T. rex. 

I got shoes full of moondust, full of little moon specks. 

But! I did not 

                         get 

                                  Sleepy." 

The detail in the mixed media artwork engages and entertains readers from start to finish. There are many stories to tell here as the story moves from page to page. The author cleverly entices the readers to return for a reread when they find (on the back cover) that each of the cats has a name and a unique look. Huzzah! Another chance to test their observation skills, and patience. Enjoy! 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The LIttlest Voyageur, written by Margi Preus and illustrated by Cheryl Pilgrim. Holiday House, Penguin Random House. $22.99 ages 8 and up

"One morning the fog on the lake was as thick as Jean Louis's pea soup. And for a change our canoe was first in the brigade. The other canoes paddled in a line, each bow close to the stern of the canoe ahead. It was up to Jean Gentille to navigate the entire brigade through the fog - to keep us from running aground, or smashing into cliffs or submerged rocks. But how? The voyageurs, poor humans that they are, ... "

It is 1792 and a brigade of voyageurs are about to embark on the long and difficult trip from Montreal to Grand Portage on Lake Superior. One of the canoes, paddled by eight white human traders named Jean, looks inviting for a tiny red squirrel on a mission to be a voyageur himself. Once found and named Jean Pierre Petit Le Rouge, the stowaway gets his wish for travel and adventure.

He is very lucky that he has one voyageur willing to put up with his lack of skills for helping with the grueling journey in any way. He does become a warm and much appreciated hat for bald and empathetic Jean Gentille. There are many complaints about his constant chatter, and a few threats about being made into a ragout. He survives the trip, as they all do. Their stay at Grand Portage opens Le Rouge's eyes to the real purpose of their journey - pelts! He is astounded and furious.

Determined to have the voyageurs learn the error of their ways, he enlists help from nearby forest friends to ambush them and prevent them from leaving with a canoe full of furs. Monique, a flying squirrel, is part of their team and quickly becomes a love interest. Their ploy works for a short while; ultimately, the crew gets back in their canoe with hopes to catch up to the others. Le Rouge does not want to spend the winter away from Montreal. He and Monique do their best to catch the canoe. They fail, and must find the way on their own. The hopeful ending is perfect for the target audience.

Interspersed with French words, and describing both danger and adventure, this detailed story is straightforward and rewarding. Le Rouge's narration, short chapters, and winning pencil illustrations inform readers about a part of history that is not often explored for their age group. It is certainly told from a very unique perspective, which adds to the fun and learning.

Back matter includes an extensive pronunciation guide for the French words included, a clear description of voyageur life, and the fur trade itself which she reminds her readers "would not have existed had it not been for the Anishinaabeg, who lived and hunted in these regions." She ends the book with a note about red and flying squirrels, a recipe for bannock, and a list of sources.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Nana Akua Goes to School, written by Tricia Elam Walker and illustrated by April Harrison. Schwartz & Wade, Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.95 ages 4 and up

"Finally, it's Nana Akua's turn.
She sits in the special
grandparent chair, with Zura
next to her. Zura clutches her
quilt tightly, and her voice shakes when she gives her introduction.

"This is my Nana Akua, and she is from Ghana, a country in West Africa."


Zura loves her Nana Akua to the depth of her being. She basks in the warmth of her grandmother's attention and in the hugs that feel like a sweater wrapped around her. When her teacher announces a Grandparents Day celebration at school, Zura's heart fills with worry for her beloved grandparent. She has heard and seen how others react when they see her.

"This is because Nana Akua looks different. When she was young, her parents followed an old African tradition. They put marks on her face to show which tribal family she belongs to, and to represent beauty and confidence. Those marks never wash off and go away."

Zura need not be worried about her beloved grandmother. Nana Akua has an idea. She suggests that Zura take her favorite quilt to the classroom. It is a special gift from Nana Akua, who quilted it with patterns that show the Adinkra symbols of the Akan people of Ghana.

"The symbols represent more than fifty important qualities, like wisdom and creativity."

The children in Mr. Dawson's class are happy to introduce their grandparents and tell what makes them special.  Finally, it's Zura's turn to introduce her Nana Akua. Showing the quilt offers an opening for Nana Akua to help those in attendance understand the beauty found in the marks that adorn her face. Nana is quick to broach the subject and to explain that she is very proud of the gift given by her parents. The rest of the time is spent with Nana Akua painting the Adinkra symbols chosen by the children on their faces, before following up by doing the same for their grandparents.

This story is beautifully told, and accompanied by colorful, detailed mixed-media collages that serve as an invitation for close observation and appreciation. End papers add interest by sharing many of the symbols, their names, the pronunciation and meaning of each.                                                                               

Thursday, September 17, 2020

All He Knew, written by Helen Frost. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $24.50 ages 12 and up

"Mama knits a sweater,
   two pairs of mittens,
     and a stocking cap.
Molly helps her make a fruitcake.
   Papa decides that he will buy
       a sack of peppermints.

Molly draws more pictures
   for them to take to Riverview:
       Snowball's three kittens,
the bonfire they had on Halloween,
   and another picture of their table  ... "

In this verse novel set in the 1930s and 40s, readers meet Henry and his family: his mother, his father, his older sister Molly. On the Christmas Eve when he was four and a half years old, Henry developed a high fever. As a result, Henry lost his hearing. 

"Henry could see that people's mouths were moving,
     he could feel his own mouth making words,
          but it sounded to Henry like everyone
was speaking
     from another room
        with the door closed.

That was when Henry and his family
     found out
            that Henry couldn't hear."

Once Henry was old enough for school, problems arose. A school for the deaf was suggested, meaning Henry would have to leave home to attend. When a test there determined Henry to be 'unteachable', an even more difficult decision had the family taking to him to Riverview Home for the Feebleminded. Henry and the two special friends he has there find ways to be together, and to help each other through living in that bleak setting and the abusive treatment they must endure.

Then readers meet Victor. He is a WWII conscientious objector. Because he will not fight in the war, he is sent to Riverview to do community service. Things begin to change for Henry and the other boys. As more of the men who have been in charge leave to fight in the war, Victor has more control over what is happening with the boys in his care. Victor recognizes Henry's intelligence, and eventually works with Henry's family to have him return home.

Told from two points of view, this poignant story has Molly sharing her brother's story, while Henry describes the endless days of confinement in a place he does not want to be. Based on a family story from WWII, an author's note explains the inspiration for telling it and includes poems written at the time. It is both heartbreaking and hopeful, and will leave readers more aware of a time in history that is rarely discussed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Tad, written and illustrated by Benji Davies. Harper, 2019. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Big Blub swam in the deep,
dark, murky part of the pond.

He was as old as the mud,
they said.

He would wait till the sun
went behind the clouds,
till the whole pond was
gray; then he would glide
out from the dark patches and ... "

Tad is the tiniest tadpole of all her brothers and sisters. In fact, she is smaller than every 'almost-a-frog' in their pond. She has to work harder than the others to get across it. Tad has never seen Big Blub; she knows from the others she should fear the huge fish. She hides whenever she can, always wanting to be invisible.

The other tadpoles grow and change. they get their back legs, their front legs, even their webbed toes. They just get bigger and stronger. They are quick-moving and soon their tails are gone. Poor Tad! She is a late bloomer. As the number of tadpoles around her gets smaller, Tad worries even more about Big Blub. She thinks she's safe.

Until one day ...

With eye-catching images of big-eyed, enthusiastic tadpoles, and a gorgeous underwater world, Benji Davies provides a tale that builds in suspense for Tad as she perseveres. Fear not! Tad knows when the time is right.
                                                                               

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

All the Birds in the World, by David Opie. Peter Pauper Press, 2020. $22.99 ages 3 and up

"All birds come from eggs.
Birds' eggs come in assorted
sizes and colors just like birds.
Eggs can be speckled brown
or sky blue
and many colors in between.

Hummingbird eggs
are about the size of a jelly bean,
while ostrich eggs
are as big as a cantaloupe."

Forever fascinated by birds, it seems appropriate that David Opie would choose them as the subject for his first picture book. He says it took him some time to determine the purpose for the book, and to then decide on its design. He chose diversity, and included more than 100 images of birds from around the world. It is obvious to every one who sees this book that he spends a good deal of his time birdwatching and learning about birds, and honing his artistic skills. His illustrations are beautifully done, opening page to ending.

The first bird introduced is small, squatty, with an unremarkable brown color, and a long, pointed beak. Some readers will recognize it immediately; others will not. Mr. Opie provides the bird's name as the book moves forward. We do occasionally hear the little guy ask questions concerning his place in the bird world.

"But what about me?"
asked Kiwi."

The text begins with what birds have in common: feathers, wings, beaks. The author then moves on to mention some of their differences: color, shape, size, leg length, homes, egg size, feet and number of toes. Kiwi plays a prominent role on each page, always observant and inquisitive. None of the characterisics seem to match those of the small bird.

Following that, readers are made aware of the great variety in beak structure, and finally 'the most amazing thing birds can do'. They can fly! Poor Kiwi cannot. Mr. Opie goes on to show water birds, nocturnal birds, the songs birds sing. Finally ... the author gives the tiny bird from New Zealand it's due.

" ... It lays very large eggs
compared to its body size,
and lives in an underground burrow,
instead of nesting in trees.
The kiwi has no tail,
but has whiskers like a cat,
and has soft, fur-like feathers,
nostrils at the tip of a long, skinny beak,
tiny, hidden wings,
and does not fly."

Kiwi humorously admits to knowing all that, and now fully understands that it is certainly part of the bird family!

Back matter includes an author's note, sketches for each numbered and labelled bird that appears in the book, and a further short note that offers even more information about the kiwi.

This is perfect fare for budding ornithologists who want clear, straightforward information, with a touch of humor, and a little twist at the end.
                                                                     

Monday, September 14, 2020

Here and Now, written by Julia Denos and illustrated by E.B. Goodale. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"There are animals.
wild ones
and tame,
living and breathing all
around you.

Muscles are growing,
cities are growing.

Cuts and broken bones
are sewing up and healing."

This peaceful meditative book follows up on the success of the first book from this team - Windows (2017). Using reading as the focus for the thoughtful text, our first glimpse (on the title page) is of four children quietly contemplating their world. An older child reads Here and Now to a little one; another watches an airplane fly overhead while the fourth child pays close attention to the flower being held. Turn the page:

"Right here,
right now,
you are reading this book."

Serene images follow from to page as the reader visits those children already presented in a variety of settings. Their quiet activities point to the beauty and peace that surrounds each one. It begins in the home and moves out beyond that. Simple text encourages paying attention to each particular moment. The reader is tasked with thinking about the greater world and all that is happening there.

"And under ALL of those things is the Earth:
the grass and the dirt,
the earthworms and the fossils,
the rocks."

In the end, the words circle back to the reader.

Mixed media artwork pays a lovely compliment to the poetic words. Changing perspectives move the reader from one thought to the next, always making meaningful connections. Many things are happening in the world ... all at one time. Lovely!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

My Day with Gong Gong, written by Sennah Lee and illustrated by Elaine Chen. Annick Press, 2020. $21.95 ages 4 and up

"He gets up and puts on his
old cap and his puffy vest.
It's time for a walk.

Down the street, vendors
sell jewelry and toys, and
a man plays Chinese violin.

Inside a gift shop, the
cashier waves to us."

National Grandparents Day is celebrated today. There are many joyous family books to read with children; as they listen, they will be encouraged to think about their own grandparents. Giving them a chance to share those stories helps them feel comfortable within the new classroom, and begins to build community as this new school year begins.

May is not thrilled when her mom drops her at Gong Gong's house for the day. She doesn't think they will have much fun. Gong Gong likes watching hockey; May would much rather watch cartoons. The sound of the cartoons awakens her grandfather, and leads to the need for a walk outdoors. That walk leads them through the neighborhood. Gong Gong speaks little English and converses in Cantonese. May does not understand her grandfather's words, or the smiling looks she gets from his many friends. She wonders if they are making fun of her.

As small children do, May becomes frustrated with the situration. Their visits to the gift shop, the dim sum restaurant, the supermarket, and the park result in a tired, hungry and cranky young granddaughter. After he helps her dry her tears, Gong Gong hands May two small bags. He has been listening, after all!

This is a love story between generations. Elaine Chen's emotional, watercolor artwork shows the two wandering and visiting in the urban landscape that is Chinatown. At the end of the day, as they head back home, May has a growing appreciation for the many sights and sounds.

It is a lovely tale. The author uses a first-person narrative to provide a better understanding of all that May is feeling as her grandfather lovingly shares the people and places of his life with her. It is replete with images that help readers see the struggles felt by a young child in new circumstances, while also learning about her heritage. It's a treasure.

Ms. Yee includes a glossary of the cultural words spoken, along with their written characters and English meaning.
                                                                       

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Construction Site Mission: Demolition! Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by AG Ford. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"Now the crew works
as a team,
to get the site all clear
and clean.

They haul materials
away,
to be reused,
another day."

Parents and teachers will know those kids who has been waiting for this new addition to the very popular Construction Site series. Their newest adventure has them dealing with something decidedly different. In the other books, they were working hard to build. This time they are bent on demolition.

An old brick building is past its prime, and the construction gang have been called in to take on the task of bringing it down. Each of them plays an important role in doing the work that needs to be done. Fans will recognize Flatbed, Crane, Excavator, Dump Truck, Front End Loader, and Skid Steer and know that each will help in demolishing the building. Then, they'll clean up the site before Big Bulldozer and Cement Mixer arrive to help prepare it for a new construction.

"The day is finished - job well done!
Demo day was tough - but fun!
The tired trucks have done their best,
and now it's time to get some rest.

Tomorrow, there's more work to do -
they'll start building something new!"

These are much-loved characters for many young readers; they will be delighted to see them
again. As always happens, the team sets a fine example of team work, with everyone playing the role meant just for them. It will be interesting for new fans to see each of the vehicles at work, and all helping with the recycling of materials. The familiar and a appealing images created by AG Ford only add to the delight kids will feel at seeing their old friends again!
                                                                             

Friday, September 11, 2020

Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy, written by Tara Dairman and illustrated by Archana Sreenivasin. G.P. Putnam's Sons. Penguin Random House. 2020. $2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up

Stitch, embroider.

Learn new rules.

Gather wood.
      Home to eat.

Dusty slippers.
      Muddy feet."

Two-to-three word rhyming sentences aptly describe two very different lives in this book about family, weather, and perspective. As the story moves forward it is easy for readers to see that climate change in the northwestern part of India has a huge impact on the way both families live.

The girl and her family live in the desert - a hot, dry environment that requires shade from the sun, long treks for water, wood gathering, eating outdoors, and worry about dust storms. The boy and his family live on lush, green fields, use coverings to protect themselves from constant rain, attend school, and worry about powerful rainstorms.

The girl's family seeks what protection they can manage to keep them safe from the swirling sand; the boy's family attempts to seal the door in order to keep the water outside. When the weather finally calms, both families must pack their things and move. As we watch them move in seemingly opposite directions toward higher ground, it is fascinating that they end up at the same destination. Together now, there are no more split images for comparison. Rather, there is great joy for both families as they have found a peaceful, starry spot to celebrate life and new friends.

The arresting illustrations that accompany the descriptive, short, poetic sentences were created in pencil and then digitally colored to show the drama felt by both families. The changing perspectives add interest and demand attention to the plight of both families. The color palette chosen clearly delineates one family's existence from the other. Be sure to read it again; it is definitely worth further attention.

In back matter, both author and illustrator offer at look at the research done to tell their story.
                                                                                   

Thursday, September 10, 2020

I Am A Capybara, written and illustrated by Michela Fabbri. Princeton Architectural Press, Raincoast. 2020. $24.95 ages 5 and up

"But I was talking about me.
I'm a capybara, and I love
living simply.

I like to observe things and
their poetry. Yes, I love poetry,
even without writing or
reading it.

I like to share.
I like to see the world go by ... "


Who better to describe the capybara than said creature itself?

So, this one does just that. First, he lets readers know what he is not: a mouse, beaver, bear or marmot. He is a rodent ... and by the way, the biggest one in the world. That is not all ...

While mistaken for a dog, at times, he most assuredly is not a dog. There are many breeds of dogs, capybaras do not differ in looks. They are all the same. A pair of carefully captioned images follow to show exactly how the two differ.

He then proceeds to tell readers the many other traits that make him the individual that he is. He presents his own perspective on many aspects of his personality in a clearly-stated, conversational tone that may lead to quiet giggles.

"Have I told you about my love for water?
Bathing, plunging, swimming underwater!

Capybaras are excellent swimmers. We can
spend hours and hours in the water and we
are able to fall asleep floating."

Using this book as a mentor text for voice and description would work well with middle graders. They will be able to separate the facts from fiction, and may find in it a successful way to present research of their own. Hopefully, it will also encourage further learning about an unusual creature.

Colored-pencil drawings, accentuated by thin textural lines done in ink, keep the star of the show front and center. This is a witty and endearing look at a South American rodent that few readers will know.

 https://youtu.be/DYGz3xqiR2U
                                                                         


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

All Welcome Here, written by James Preller and illustrated by Mary GrandPre. Feiwel & Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $$25.99 ages 4 and up

"Name Tags

At every desk,
A chair with tennis-ball feet,
A place for you.

Library 

The library door
Opens: Hear the whoosh and thrum
Of the school's heart beat."

Many schools have already opened for students and teachers; others will be opening in coming days. September 2020 promises to be a brand-new experience for even the most seasoned of those returning to classrooms.

James Preller has created a collection of haiku that looks closely at the joys and chaos of the first day back. Exciting for many, full of trepidation for others, the scenes he has created in 17 syllables will be familiar to children who share this book.

Mary GrandPre's artwork for the title page aims to engage readers by presenting a childlike drawing of a little one returning to a warm school welcome, while surrounded by the usual paraphernalia that evokes excitement for its newness as the school year begins. Each turn of the page captures another small moment in the chaos that is every 'first' day back.

Hoisting a heavy backpack, boarding the bus, meeting the new principal, seeing old friends (and new), finding the way from one place to another, gym, recess, reading - each moment is presented in descriptive wording. Using acrylic paint, crayon, and oil pastels, Ms. GrandPre creates warm, empathetic, energetic, and engaging images sure to elicit observation and conversation - and memories from past 'first days'.
                                                                                   

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Solar Story: How One Community Lives Alongside the World's Biggest Solar Plant, written and illustrated by Allan Drummond. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $25.99 ages 9 and up

"Now there are new pylons
and wires all over, sending
electricity far away to where
it's needed. Around the plant,
there are miles of high safety
fences.
On the long, hot, dusty walk
back from school we can just
see, far away, men and cranes working on top of what will soon be the world's tallest solar tower."

In previous books concerning sustainable living, Allan Drummond has provided excellent information for young readers. In this one, he turns his attention to the largest solar power plant in the world. The children - Nadia and Jasmine, and their classmates - pass it by as they walk to school each day. The author describes their classroom in Morocco and how they learned about solar power and sustainability from their teacher's big questions.

They have been watching the construction of the world's biggest solar power plant, and now they are taking a field trip to see it. Amazed at what they see, they discover the facts about its real size.

"It's the size of 500 soccer fields, and
contains 660,000 mirrors.
And nearly complete is the
800-foot-tall solar tower ...

It is surrounded by thousands of mirrors, each the size of
a tennis court. They bounce the sun's rays onto the tower.
"Very hot," says Miss Abdellam. "It will be
one thousand degrees on top, in fact."

Their visit offers a chance to really consider sustainability and how the plant will help and affect their own village. There are many happy results of the plant's close proximity for those who live there. It will take time for all to feel the further results as the work is not complete. The children are hoping they will soon have access to the Internet.

"Morocco is growing in population and
developing fast. Although the communities
near the solar plant are remote, it is expected
that with better roads, better water management,
better farms, and more people with new skills,
the area around the solar plant will thrive."

Mr. Drummond's artwork takes readers right to the heart of Jasmine's classroom and community. It also gives a perspective on the size of the plant. An author's explanatory note, photos and a bibliography add context.

Very informative and useful for classrooms and middle grade readers wanting to know more about the subject. If you haven't seen other books by this author concerning sustainability, look for energy island (2015), green city (2016) and pedal power (2018). They are equally excellent.

                                                                               

Monday, September 7, 2020

Bye, Penguin! By Seou Lee. Levine Querido, Raincoast. 2020. $$23.99 ages 4 and up



Did you hear that?

Was that a crack in the ice?

Did you SEE that?

One penguin, set adrift!


Two words are all that are needed to get this quietly humorous story started - "Craaaack" "Snick!"

With full concentration on the fish in its bright orange beak, the small penguin is unaware that it might be in some trouble. Those two sounds (as a tiny bit of ice breaks away from the larger floe) leave the bird surprised and anxious as its colony gets further and further from view.

Realizing there is not turning back, the bird relaxes and begins a journey of great beauty and endless wonder. Adults (and some children) will recognize familiar and iconic sights presented as the bird travels on. The Northern Lights, icy caverns, Rio's Great Redeemer, the Statue of Liberty, a Greek church, the Sydney Opera House ... always moving forward toward what? As the tiny ice patch melts, readers know the penguin has reached warmer water. What yet lies ahead? A cheerful and comical resolution, that's what!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Papa Brings Me the World, written and illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $25.99 ages 5 and up

"When Papa comes home,
his pockets are treasure troves
of silver and gold!

I have coins from twenty-
eight countries - the ones
with holes are my favorites.

"Papa, I'm saving up for
a ticket around the world!"

Lu's dad is a photojournalist whose life is spent travelling the world. Whenever he leaves, Lu puts little notes in his pockets to let him know how much she loves and misses him when he is gone. His trips are a constant source of treasure for his little one. Each country he visits offers special memories for him to share with Lu.

Besides the many different coins he brings, he also gifts her with an ancient calculator, a game, a thumb piano, and more. Lu lives a life of adventure by checking his journal and imagining herself in  those places he artfully describes.

"Mama and I cover the wall with a giant map of the world to
keep track of Papa. She asks me where I want to explore.
"Everywhere!" I shout, stretching
my arms across the oceans."

Lulu wants to be like her dad. Every time he comes home, she expresses her desire to travel with him and to see the many wonders that he sees. Because she is so young, she must accept that her papa will bring the world he visits to her. And maybe someday ...

One day, he brings a very special a gift. It is a book, and it has nothing in it. Papa knows it's time for Lu to use her new journal to keep track of her own travels. Someday is here!

Lu's voice is clear, and full of longing. She understands his need to be away, and is delighted to hear the stories he has to tell, and to enjoy the conversations they have when he returns. Though she is thankful for the treasures he brings, it is evident she prefers Papa's company more than anything else.

The brilliant collages and mixed media artwork are filled with wonder and bold colors, indicative of the places in the world Papa works. At times, they fill whole pages; at others, they illustrate small, personal moments. They are layered, full of texture, and detail that will keep readers occupied for the many times the book will be read together. In the final pages, readers have a chance to see some of Lu's own personal adventures by catching a glimpse at her journal entries. Lovely way to end this family story.

In back matter, an author's note explains that the story is autobiographical. Her father, too, brought gifts for Jenny Sue and the rest of the family. The real treasure was in the stories told, and experiences explained. The dream of a lifetime came true when they were finally able to make a journey together. Photos, journal entries, and a world map showing where the treasures originated are there as well. The final page describes the treasure game and provides a personal example for how to play it.
                                                                               

Saturday, September 5, 2020

First Day Jitters, written by Jory John and illustrated by Liz Climo. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Am I tense? Yeah.
I haven't really spent
a great deal of time
outside of the pouch,
to be quite honest, so
this is going to be new
for me. Also, I'm cold
and I miss my mom. 

Maybe next year
I'll be ready."

So says a young joey, waiting at the bus stop while holding tightly to a family picture. The facing image shows that same joey securely situated back in the pouch of a giant mama kangaroo created in the school sandbox. Waiting for next September, perhaps!?!

Each critter expresses jitters about the upcoming school year, and how each will adapt. The critters presented on opening two-page spreads express concern over what might be their greatest challenge to first day attendance. A sloth wonders about getting there on time, while a snake is concerned about how to wear a backpack. When it doesn't work, concern turns to how to be sure supplies will be there when needed. There follows a mouse, the joey, a parrot, a mole, a bear, and a rabbit.

They continue to express their concerns at the bus stop, on the bus, and once they are in the classroom ... all with loud SIGHs. The door swings open and it rolls a spiral ball. What can it be? They are soon to find out.

"Oh. Yes. Ahem.
Good morning,
everybody. I'm
your, uh, teacher,
Mr. Sherwood."

Mole, who can't see very well as you know, is amazed to 'see' a talking rock. Mr. Sherwood responds with an admission. He's nervous! He says he has many reasons to be. Upon considering his announcement, each of his new students offers to provide what help they can. In doing so, they create an atmosphere of trust and friendliness - exactly what is needed as the new school year begins. 

Done with 'digital magic', Liz Climo captures the angst and helpfulness of these critters. The hand-lettered speech balloons offer a terrific opportunity for shared reading, with different students taking on a role.

Poor sloth! First day doesn't go so well. Ingenuity, thanks to snake, offers a solution for their second, much-anticipated day at school.
                                                                     

Friday, September 4, 2020

Go For The Moon: A Rocket, A Boy, And the First Moon Landing. Written and illustrated by Chris Gall. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $25.99 ages 8 and up

"The Saturn V astronauts have their own breakfast early in the morning. Then they are sent to a special room to get into their space suits. They need help. The special suitcases they carry will give them oxygen to breathe until their capsule is safely in space. Three hours before liftoff ... "

I posted a number of books about the 1969 moon landing a few weeks ago, and somehow missed this one. Don't know how I do those things. Anyway ...

The child narrator of this grand story is obviously obsessed with rockets, space and this very auspicious moment in history. His own rocket is built. His family clearly shares his interest.

In double-page spreads, Chris Gall places each stage of the rocket's preparation and journey alongside inset views of the child's readiness for liftoff. Each step along the way is presented in astonishing clarity with detailed images as the full drama unfolds. His explanatory scientific text is accessible to his intended audience and matched by these images. He also provides context through the young boy's eyes with his own rocket launch. The two blast off together!

Gall's comparison of trying to hit a soccer ball with a rock as it is kicked through the air shows just how hard it is to assure a safe landing in space. The boy knows exactly what is happening as the rocket hurtles through space, moving out of Earth's gravity and into that of the moon. Settled in his own spaceship at home, he simulates what is happening in space.

"I eat my snacks from a plastic bag, and
I sip my Tang through a straw. I make sure
I don't spill anything, because in space
there is no gravity. Any spills will float
around the inside of the ship and cause trouble
for the spacecraft and the astronauts."

The excitement is apparent as the entire family waits with bated breath for the astronauts to step onto the moon's surface, and to hear Neil Armstrong's enduring first words: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Both imaginative and clearly set in space history, this is a book that will be appreciated by many, and is worthy of attention.

In an author's note, Mr. Gall shares his memories of that very memorable event for a boy obsessed with astronomy and space travel. He also adds a page of fun facts, a glossary and a list of resources, print and virtual. 
                                                                               

Thursday, September 3, 2020

See The Cat: Three Stories About a Dog, written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2020. $11.99 ages 3 and up

"See the snake.

Here we go again. 

The snake is under the dog.

YIKES!

The snake is mad.

Shoo! Shoo!"


Oh, Max! Poor guy ... that you are!

In the first of three stories, the narrator is bent on assuring young readers that Max is a cat. Max is having none of it. He explains after every assertion that he is, in fact, a dog.  All new descriptive phrasing is about a cat. Max becomes more and more disgruntled. After a final meltdown, Max realizes his mistake, and is contrite.

The two following stories are equally funny, and highly entertaining. If the reader likes the first story, be prepared for more to enjoy in the last two. Early readers are going to love them, and will soon be sharing the book with anyone who will listen. That is, only after they laugh their way through it time and again. Perfect fare for those on the verge of becoming independent readers.

Finding exceptional fare we categorize as early readers is a task at times. This wonderfully engaging makes that task much easier.
                                                                                   
 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Make Your Own Art Gallery: A Coloring Book-ish, by Peter H. Reynolds. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2020. $12.99 ages 4 and up



Draw. Frame. Share!
With pages of possibilities,
the creator of the dot and ish
inspires us to make our mark
and see where it takes us.





When I opened the new box to discover this book under the bubble wrap, I knew exactly what to do!

I immediately ordered two copies to be sent to my granddaughters. I hope they arrive in time for an upcoming 6th birthday! Schooling for them will be at home for the near future. They are young and their parents do not want them to be part of an experiment to see what happens when you put a group of young children together in the face of a worldwide pandemic. School is not a safe place to be right now for anyone. Their parents will ensure that learning together remains fun and educational.

To fully participate in the joy of creating, they will need some supplies - crayons, markers, pencil crayons. Peter Reynolds knows that children are artists until someone else tells them are not. They often lose their creative spirit when they are asked to focus on product, not process. Thus, he has created a book that invites young ones to let their imaginations be the inspiration for a coloring book-ish that features frames on the recto and an lined box on the verso that provides a space for the artist's name, the date and the title of their masterpiece. Some frames offer an idea, others do not.

A perforated edge allows removal if the child wants to present the work of art as a gift.

Reading the dot and ish ahead of letting them loose to create their own showpieces would be motivating. Try the library or your favorite bookstore! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

I Talk Like A River, written by Jordan Scott and illustrated by Sydney Smith. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2020. $24.99 ages 5 and p

"My dad takes me to the river.

We walk along the shore
looking for colorful rocks
and water bugs.

It feels good to be quiet
and alone with my dad.

But I can't stop thinking
about my bad speech day: "

As this autobiographical tale begins, the pain and fear the young child feels are palpable. He knows the words of objects that are part of his surroundings; he can't say them. Every single one of them sticks in his mouth and gets tangled up. It causes him to remain quiet as he wakens, starts his day with teeth brushing and breakfast oatmeal. He doesn't need words to start his day.

That all changes when he gets to school. There, he tries to avoid questions presented to him, and the staring eyes and strident voices that remind him he sounds different.

"My mouth isn't working.
It's full with words
of the morning."

When he is reminded that it is his turn to talk about his favorite place, he freezes. He can't do it; he wants to go home. Soon, his father is there with understanding and just the thing he needs to make the day better. They go to the river. As they walk, his father provides the support and gentle words that soothe his soul and allow him to see himself in a different light. It is all he needs.

Sydney Smith provides stunning spreads that begin in the moody light of sadness and worry. When he and his dad visit the river, readers are made aware of the sense of peace that comes when his dad explains that the boy 'talks like the river'; it is a good thing. Light changes with the boy's mood, and the open gatefold at the center shimmers with the beauty of the river itself. His artwork is as expressive as the writing.

Jordan Scott is uniquely equipped to provide a close look at the boy's difficulties with his speaking voice, as he also stutters. Just as the father in the story does, Jordan's dad helped him see that nature does some stuttering of its own. In his debut book for children he has written an admirable book sure to garner attention and awards - deservedly so. This is a stunning picture book.

Peter Reynolds might call it 'wisdom dipped in words and art'. I would absolutely agree.