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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

We Wait for the Sun, written by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe and illustrated by Raissa Figueroa. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2021. $25.99 ages 5 and up


"It grows cooler as we enter the forest, and darker.
"Dovey Mae?" Grandma calls out. 
"I'm right here." I answer. "Right over here."
"The darkness isn't anything to be afraid of, child. If 
you wait just a little, your eyes will learn to see, and 
you can find your way. Hold on to my apron, now."

This captivating childhood memory of a grandchild for her beloved grandmother, is adapted from an adult book written by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, Mighty Justice (2019). The epilogue explains the evolution of this book.

"The girl in the story, DOVEY JOHNSON ROUNDTREE, was born more than one hundred years ago
in Charlotte, North Carolina. During a time of racial inequity in America, she grew up to become a 
legendary civil rights lawyer, fighting for justice. No matter how dangerous the fight was, she refused to quit. She believed that a better day was coming for African American people, because that was what she had been taught by her bold and brave grandmother, Rachel Bryant Graham. Dovey loved to tell stories of her Grandma Rachel. The story Dovey loved best is the one you are about to read."

Their day begins before dawn. The two find their way through darkness to the woods where they will pick blackberries. Others join them, all slipping secretly along a planned path. They are friends with the same mission. The child stays close to her grandmother, fearful of the night's sounds and the dark. As dawn nears, birdcalls break through the silence and guide the berry-picking group to their destination. 

The picking begins, and continues as the heat builds and the sky lightens. The promise of rich, moist berries to be eaten throughout the day keeps them at the shared task. Tasting is approved and appreciated. Grandma teaches Dovey all she knows about picking. 

Suddenly, the two and stand together in a warm hug. 

""Here she comes!" Grandma whispers. 
She draws me to her, and together we
watch the pink turn to red, the red to gold.

Together they watch the sunrise ... a memory that Dovey will cherish until the day she dies. 

The imagery of the story told is perfectly interpreted in digital artwork that has a luminous touch. The soothing comfort of nature and her grandmother's presence are all Dovey needs to forever recall this very special moment in her life. 

Back matter shares the importance of the relationship between the two. It also includes an authors' note, a timeline, and a bibliography.                                                                                

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

It's So Quiet: A Not-Quite-Going-To-Bed Book, written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tony Fucile. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"In a little bed, in the little house
is a sleepy mama and a very 
sleepless mouse. 
"Hush," says his mama. 
"Settle down now, not a peep.
The small sweet sounds of nighttime
will whisper you to sleep ... 
                                               ... listen.

Oh, bedtime - it's often the bane of a parent's existence when they have small children. It is no different for this mama mouse who is doing her best to settle her little one down after a long day. The sun is setting, the farm quiets, and there is a stillness in the air. She turns out the light, only to hear a lament ... 
It's too quiet!

Not to be deterred, Mama provides comfort and a soothing voice. The frogs are croaking, the crickets join the chorus, the screen door sways, the dog's tail taps the porch floor, the breeze whistles through the trees, Grandad snores, and so on. When the coyote howls, the little mouse raises the window to see what is happening outside. Then, returns to bed. The sounds repeat, and grow louder. Back to bed, only to be disturbed by an ever-growing barrage of noise. It proves to be too much! 



That's all it takes. The little one is left with the night's quiet to soothe her back to sleep. 

Full of fun and relatable sounds, this is a book that will be requested again and again at bedtime. With dark backgrounds, a woodsy setting, and plenty of onomatopoeia, readers will respond with laughter and enjoyment for the predicament the child mouse experiences. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

I Have the Right to Save My Planet, written by Alain Serres and illustrated by Aurelia Fronty. Translated by Shelley Tanaka. Groundwood, 2021. $19.95 ages 8 and up

 "Each species depends on the others.
So if a plant disappears, the insects that 
feed on its flowers will vanish, too. 
And so will the frogs that eat those insects, 
and the fish that feed on the eggs of those 
frogs ...

The great chain of life goes all the way around
the planet. 
We must not interrupt it."

This book follows I Have the Right to Be a Child, written and illustrated by the same team. It precedes a third book to be published in the fall. The author was inspired by the kindergarten children he once taught to take up writing. In his books, he gives them a voice concerning their rights in the world they inhabit.  The U.N. Convention on The Rights of the Child has many facets, all relating to the need for children to be protected and encouraged to have a voice for their place in the world. 

By exploring the many ways children can help in healing the environmental woes faced today, he shows that their love of the natural world can inspire change. He begins by speaking to the wonders of the Earth where everything in nature is FREE. There is amazing diversity in this world and children have the right to rejoice in it. 

"When it comes to nature, 
I have the right 
to everything.

He mourns, with children, the devastation and damage done through human greed and insensitivity to their own actions. He writes with a child's voice when stating the rights they have to a healthy environment. By taking action they can help to make changes for their future. They can be angry, and they can dream. They can work, and they can demand further action. By learning about the world and celebrating its many gifts, they will realize that there are steps that can, and should, be taken to improve conditions. Posters, letters, family protests, are just part of what kids can do to begin to make a difference. Children today will know far more than many adults might know when they read the exceptional books being published to help inform them about climate change, restoration efforts and having a voice. 

"Come on, humans! Time to wake up! 
Scientists are warning us that many species will 
disappear if we continue to mistreat nature. 
Plenty of them have disappeared already. 

I have the right to know that in Borneo
people are destroying rainforests to make 
room for palm trees. 
Why? Because oil from the palm fruit is an 
inexpensive ingredient used to make some 
cookies, margarine, and shower gels.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Boy Who Loved Everyone, written by Jane Porter and illustrated by Maisie Paradise Shearring. Candlewick, Penguin Random House. 2021. $22.99 ages 3 and up


"Dimitri walked with his mother, 
past the bakery, through the park, 
and along the canal. On the way, 
they passed an old man sitting on 
a bench. He looked very tired. 
"I love you, old man," said Dimitri.
"Who are you calling old?" snapped
the man. After that, Dimitri grew
very quiet.

There is nothing in his world that Dimitri does not love. He cannot help but share those intense feelings with everyone and everything he meets along the way. It is very sad for him when reactions do not meet his expectations. Of course, it is mostly human response that he finds most disheartening. His friends at school are not sure how to respond. Trees and ants just keep doing their thing without noticing what Dimitri says to them. 

Leaving school for the walk home with his mother doesn't change things much. An old man's response is abrupt and leaves Dimitri without words. Of course, his mother beams at his affirmation of his love for her at bedtime, and returns the compliment. Morning brings a new response to school - he does not want to return. He explains that no one at school responds in kind to his words. His mother tries to help him understand their lack of response. 

"When you tell people that you love them,"
she said, "even if they don't say it back or 
show it, they feel it. That's just the way love is. 
It can't help but spread and grow.

As they make their way to preschool, his mom is able to help him understand that there are many ways for people to show their feelings in response to his kind thoughts. What a surprise awaits upon arrival  at school; Dimitri reaps the many rewards of his behavior toward others!  

Ms. Shearring’s mixed-media illustrations are detailed, colorful and engaging. As a kindergarten teacher for many years, I am amazed at how perfectly she captures every child on the reading carpet. They were all in my classrooms!                                                                                  

Saturday, March 27, 2021

I Sang You Down From the Stars, written by Tasha Spillett-Sumner and illustrated by Michaela Goade. Owlkids. 2021. $19.95 ages 2 and ups


"With care in my hands, I sewed your first 
star blanket. With each stitch, I whispered a 
prayer for you and thought about wrapping 
you up warm and safe, just like you are now
in my belly. 

Into your bundle it goes.

This beautiful story of anticipation for the birth of a baby begins with the mother's love for her unborn child. She does not have to know the child to feel love and joy. 

"I loved you before I met you. 
Before I held you in my arms., 
I sang you down from the stars.

Knowing the baby has chosen her, she begins to collect sacred items to be placed in a medicine bundle. Everything placed there will have special meaning for the child, its connection to its heritage, and its own identity. Family and loved ones also help to prepare for the little one's arrival. 

A spring birth ends the child's journey from sky to earth, and the sacred medicine bundle is gifted. A star blanket wraps the baby in love and warmth. An eagle feather speaks to the beauty in the world. Cedar and sage offer spiritual strength, and a river stone is a reminder of the stories the land shares. The child is welcomed by many family members who will provide love, support and teaching. 

"You brought them so much love and joy. 
I saw that you, my baby, are also a 
sacred bundle.

Graceful, lyrical language is accompanied by soft, soothing, watercolor and mixed media illustrations that shimmer with light and love. If you are looking for a gift for a family with a newborn, this would be a cherished selection. 

Both author and illustrator include notes that speak to their own cultural beliefs. That is why I can share this marvelous book with you today. Ms. Spillett-Sumner chose to 'shine a light on the traditional understanding of my Nation, the Inniniwak, and many other Indigenous peoples globally: that babies choose their parents'. 2021 Caldecott winner Michaela Goade adds that she comes 'from the Tlingit Nation - People of the Tides - and Tasha belongs to the Inniniwak Nation, where they identify as People of the Stars. Exploring new traditional stories and looking up at the night sky was deeply inspiring'. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Twins, written by Varian Johnson and illustrated by Shannon Wright. Graphix, Scholastic. 2020. $16.99 ages 10 and up


"Now, what happened? 

I chose to run for president. She copied me! 

You told me I should run for an office! 

What type of sister runs against her own 
flesh and blood? 

What type of sister tells her other sister
she doesn't have the self-confidence to -

It's the first day of school at O'Connor Middle School, and twins Maureen and Francine are attendees. Up until now, the two have been together at home and at school. For the first time in their lives, they will not be in the same classes, or even in the same extracurricular activities. It is quite the change, and not totally acceptable to Maureen. Francine, on the other hand, is keen on being herself rather than an oft-misidentified twin. 

While Maureen is signed up for Cadet Corps, Francine goes in a different direction, more in keeping with her more gregarious nature. The friends in their shared circle also branch off, leaving the quiet, introspective Maureen to wonder at the many changes developing. Francine decides to run for class president, and has her campaign up and running. When pressed, Maureen agrees to run for an office, too. She surprises herself and everyone else when she chooses to run for student council president against her sister. 

Needless to say, that choice leads to conflict - at home and at school. This is a strong graphic novel debut for Varian Johnson. He creates a strong family dynamic, a close look at the relationship between sisters, and an entertaining story that deals with adolescent issues of identity and the changes that middle school often brings. Ms. Wright's bold, emotion-filled art adds depth and context to each scene; backgrounds are detailed and telling, as well as being real and often humorous.  

Thursday, March 25, 2021

My Thoughts Are Clouds: Poems for Mindfulness, written by Georgia Heard and illustrated by Isabel Roxas. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2021. $26.99 ages 9 and up



what do you do
20 times per minute,
30,000 times a day,
10 million times a year, 
without trying, 
without thinking, 
without knowing."

Middle grade mindfulness is of utmost importance in these days of uncertainty and isolation. Each of us is wanting to feel more peaceful, more connected, more involved in the world we inhabit. To be able to stop in the middle of everything and find a quiet spot to reflect on our feelings offers calm. In her poems for middle grade students, Georgia Heard does what she does best. She calls gently to her readers to find a place of calm in the midst of chaos. 

There are 30 thoughtful poems here, placed in 6 sections: the first includes a note to readers, then Breathe In Breathe Out, Mindful Me, Mindful World, Meditation and finally, Kindfulness. Through her wise words and well-constructed poems, Ms. Heard encourages her readers to consider how they are feeling, and letting those feelings take a back seat to their ability to accept them by finding ways to be in control of their thoughts and reactions. 

"When My Noisy Mind Quiets

Here in this chair
my noisy mind
settles into quiet.

I leave all my to-do's
in a place 
asleep like winter trees. 

Then I become friends
with the seasons of my breath, 
and my own voice blossoms." 

The author writes about quiet observation, exploring the peace of the natural world, and mentions other types of meditation that come from world communities. Using these poems in a classroom or at home during these anxious times could be just what everyone needs.  It would be welcome as a read aloud in any middle years classroom. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Mel Fell, written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor. Balzer + Bray, Harper. 2021. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"Even the spider lent a 
hand. (Eight of them.)
But still, Mel fell. 

She fell and fell. 

Oh, no!"

Mel has that feeling! Today's the day she is going to fly. Mama kingfisher is busy elsewhere. There's nothing to stand in Mel's way. She admits she is scared, but she is going to go through with it anyway. Obviously, it's a long drop from the branch she is standing on to the bottom of their tree. She knows she can do it! 

"She jumped. She flipped. She spread
her wings. And then ...

she fell."

Oh my, did she ever! She fell past the owl family, the squirrels, the bees, the spider, a snail, some ants, even a ladybug. All are willing to help; Mel fell too fast. At the end of her fall, she splashes into the water, snags a fish ... and then surprise! Readers are asked to turn the book upside down. 

Mel flew - right past all of the friends who wanted to help when she was falling. They cheer and encourage until Mel arrives home where her mother waits, beaming with pride that matches Mel's equally joyous feeling. 

Mixed media artwork will delight a young audience, and readers will very much enjoy the vertical turn of the book. It allows them to watch Mel go from a quick plummet, to a proud flight right back to where she started. 

I can hear the chorus: Please read it AGAIN. And, I will. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

13 Ways to Eat a Fly, written by Sue Heavenrich and illustrated by David Clark. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House. 2021. $19.99 ages 5 and up




In the blink of an eye, a wood frog snaps
out its tongue and catches a fly. The frog
closes its eyes and swallows, using its
eyeballs to push the fly down its throat.

Kids who want to practice their counting skills need look no further than this book that encourages their full attention as they watch thirteen different species of flies and gnats meet their demise at the will of an array of predators. 

Readers are first introduced to the species in a full spread of images for all thirteen:

"Big flies, 
     small flies, 
        fat flies,

Yum! These flies are someone's dinner."

Even though many have a strong dislike for flies, there are animals and plants who depend on them for sustenance. They quite like having them nearby. The numbers begin at 13, with the flies spread across the top of the page. A frog quickly snaps up the blue bottle fly as it does its best to avoid capture. Moving on the long-legged fly gets tangled in the web of a garden spider. At the bottom of this page, the illustrator offers the flies that are left - twelve of them. So it goes from single to double-page spreads, always with the images of the descending number of flies shown in a long line for constant counting.  

The species of each fly is named (common and scientific) and a brief paragraph of accessible information is provided. The title for each page is rhymed with the one that follows. 


A well-camouflaged crab spider waits, motionless
in a flower. When an unsuspecting fly lands - 
pounce! The spider grabs the fly with its powerful 
front legs and sinks its fangs into the fly's head.

Following the demise of the last counted fly, the author explains that human don't often eat flies (unless they swallow one by running into it). She does say that some people do eat other insects, and that research is being done to make use of more in foods for human consumption. A fly's life cycle is added, as a well as a tongue-in-cheek guide to fine dining, a labelled close-up image of the fly and its edible parts, lists of books and websites, and a selected bibliography. 

This is a terrific book, enhanced by the pen and ink, and digital media drawings of David Clark. They are filled with crisp lines, bold colors, and fitting close-ups of the flies and predators. Kids of all ages will find much to learn here, by presenting an original way to get kids engaged in science. If you know a child who likes insects, get this book; if they like fun and facts, get this book; if they like gross content, get this book!                                                                                               

Monday, March 22, 2021

Impossible, written and illustrated by Isol. Translated by Elisa Amado. Groundwood, 2021. $18.95 ages 3 and up


"Sure you don't 
want to go to the 


They'd be
very pleased if 
Toribio would 
only try the 
potty they 
just bought 

Would any parent readily admit to loving everything about having a two-year-old? Somehow, I doubt it. I can tell you that after reading this wonderfully funny and spot-on book, some never-to-be-forgotten memories returned. 

Toribio is two and a half: a disruptor of sleep, an adamant negotiator when having his hair washed, a fussy eater, an avoider of bathroom business, an expert at sleep resistance, and the cause of daily exhaustion for both parents. Impossibly feisty! 

After reading a promise of help in their newspaper, the parents make arrangements to meet with a 'specialist'. An honest conversation about the difficulties faced in raising their son results in her offer for the perfect plan. 

"Done. Put some of this magic powder on 
his pillow tonight, and by morning your
problem will be solved. 
That's $250.

The parents follow the advice to a tee. Problem absolutely solved. What a twist it is! 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

When Elephants Listen withTheir Feet: Discover Extraordinary Animal Senses, written by Emmanuelle Grundmann and illustrated by Clemence Dupont. Translated by Erin Woods. Pajama Press, 2021. $23.95 ages 8 and up

"In proportion to its body, a bear's brain 
is three times smaller than a human's. 
However, the part of its brain dedicated
to smell is five times more significant than
ours. In an all-white environment like the 
Arctic, it can be hard to find prey using 
eyesight. But a polar bear can smell a seal
more than 19 miles (30 kilometers) away, 
even if it's under a meter of ice.

Our senses - humans and animals - are used for a multitude of good reasons. Just think for a moment to consider what you use your senses for, and how they help you live a full life. The power of the senses differs from species to species; all are extraordinary in the way they are used to make life better, safer, and more productive. 

The tone of the text is conversational, the design well-organized and eye-catching, and the information provided is often quite remarkable. Initially organized according to the senses, the text then moves on to describe vibrations, electromagnetism, and the final part of the book deals with 'superhero animals'. This gives readers a look at some pretty spectacular ways that animals have adapted to their environment. 

"An echidna's muzzle isn't just a mouth
and a nose; it's also an electrical signal 
detector. The long-beaked echidna has
2,000 cells that specialize in this function; 
the short-beaked echidna, which lives in 
drier areas, has 400. They both use their 
detectors to find termites, mice, and 
worms to eat.

Each of the illustrated information boxes offers clear and useful looks at the animals' various abilities. The eight sections open with a boldly-colored facing page, showing a human exploring the presented subject matter to garner attention. Then, the chosen animals are skillfully introduced with their pertinent information.  

Finally, an animal index provides further tidbits of info and page numbers for each to allow readers to return to reread the parts of the book that hold specific interest. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Lake: A See to Learn Book, written by Kate Moss Gamblin and illustrated by Karen Patkau. Groundwood, 2020. $16.95 ages 5 and up


"Do you see this crimson leaf fallen on the 
water - marker of the turning season - a tiny 
red canoe on its journey toward the sea?

As the weather improves daily, thoughts are sure to turn to summer, and time at the lake. This second book in the series A Sea to Learn Book, is an informative and entertaining way for little ones to learn more about the lake itself.

Ms. Moss Gamblin asks about the habitat in a number of questions aimed at having readers take a close look, and think about what they are seeing. She describes many small facts about life at the lake while Karen Patkau creates full-page detailed digital images to focus attention. 

From one season to the next, a father and son experience the wonder and beauty of their environs. Summer brings active beaver construction, a moose swimming in blue waters, lily pads and hummingbirds, and days of swimming close to water insects and passing trout. In autumn they are mindful of a family of cygnets growing and changing color, leaves turning to brilliant crimson, and otters cavorting in calm waters. Winter brings mist, snow, icy surfaces and hibernation for the lake's inhabitants. Finally, spring brings snow melt, warmer days, and the birth of animal babies.  

Our warm days of spring are on the horizon. Those who have been staying in, while obeying Covid protocols, can see light and beauty at the end of the tunnel. Nature walks and a return to the lake offer fresh promise for better days ahead.  

Back matter includes an author's note, and a list for further reading meant specifically for young readers. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Bird Show, written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale. Peachtree, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2021. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"I flaunt a full skirt
of milky-white lace.
My apron is yellow, 
my dress has a face.

What a lovely show this is! I have always been interested in birds, as are so many young children. For them, this book is pretty fascinating fare. The birds are shown in feathered splendor. There are 18 of them, and they can be found throughout the world. The rhymes created for their introductions speak to the beauty of their 'clothing'. 

They are the only creatures that sport feathers. Seeing so many species is of great interest. They are all decked-out in their own personal finery and the description is voiced by the birds themselves. The clothing descriptions are varied: coat, jacket, skirt, apron, dress, vest, suit, headdress, tailcoat. The list goes on. 

While each acrylic illustration shows their colors, their grace, and their beauty in a centerpiece image bordered by matching colors or on double-page spreads that provide clear settings, they are not named until the final pages of the book. That allows for sharing knowledge of the species, or guessing what they might be. All are dazzling.  

The thumbnails at the end name the birds, offer a snippet of information about each, and let readers know where they can be found in the world. Finally, the author invites readers to go back and find the birds that belong to the colors and patterns exhibited in a small squares gameboard. Answers are provided ... whew!   

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Percy's Museum, written by Sara O'Leary and illustrated by Carmen Mok. Groundwood, 2021. $18.95 ages 3 and up

"Percy looks around his new yard, 
and he sees bees kissing flowers,
ants on parade, and birds putting 
on air shows.

I've been hugging new books lately. This is one of them. 

Percy's new house is not at all the same as his old one. In his bustling urban neighborhood, he always had someone to see and many activities to keep him busy. His new house is quiet and isolated. The only other house is past a fence and a distance away. 

What does intrigue Percy is the smaller house near the edge of their property. His new yard has much to offer as well: bees, ants, flowers, birds, leaves and rocks. Percy becomes a collector of such natural things. He sketches, searches, and learns about different kinds of WILD ... 

"He learns that sometimes WILD 
means big and scary, and sometimes 
it means small and sweet.

The strawberries he finds growing wild make a tasty snack. He contemplates a nearby pond from his tree perch, and examines the world of slippery fish. Night and day bring new discoveries ... and a decision to use the Percy-sized house to create a warm and telling place to call his own. 

Double-page spreads throughout are designed using gouache and colored pencil. They offer a quiet serenity for a young boy who finds himself in unfamiliar surroundings. A few quick peeks at a neighbor and her dog suggest the chance to make a new friend. The call of his natural surroundings and its many wonders moves readers from page to page. Sweet and reassuring for those who might have experienced or are experiencing a move to a new home. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

No Buddy Like a Book, written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Brianne Farley. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"I visit any world I wish
and never leave my chair. 
There is no buddy like a book
To make me feel I'm there. 

So step aboard the Book Express.
It's leaving from the station.
The only ticket needed is 
your own imagination.

I know you are a reader if you are 'reading' this blog post. I know you must be interested in new books for children. So, I want to share this new book by Allan Wolf that speaks to the wonder of books and the power of imagination. If you are reading books to your students or your own children, you will already know how books impact a child's imagination and the stories they want to tell. 

Allan Wolf firmly establishes that premise in the words of his book, by sharing the learning they do and the many marvelous places children visit through the books they hear. 

"books are only smears of ink
 without the reader’s mind
 to give the letters meaning
 and to read between the lines.

Brianne Farley's 'illustrations were done using gouache, colored pencil, charcoal, wax pastel, and glue on mulberry paper and watercolor paper'. Each spread dazzles with imagined worlds open to readers. Detailed and always directed at the children and their learning, she fills her pages with all manner of interesting ideas and actions. 

I promise full engagement in the stunning double page spread that shows a brand-new night sky!                                                                                     

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

How to Promenade with a Python (And Not Get Eaten), written by Rachel Poliquin and illustrated by Kathryn Durst. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $16.99 ages 8 and up



"Most snakes wriggle from side to side
in a wavy motion. Some snakes are 
SUPER - SPEEDY, especially in water. 
But on land, big, fat snakes like Frank 
slowly creep forward by rhythmically 
squeezing, pushing and lifting belly 
muscles all along their body, sort of 
like a caterpillar. His large belly
scales help grip the ground as he 
moves forward.

A new book by Rachel Poliquin offers a humorous, well-researched look at trying to be friends with a python. It is narrated by Celeste, a classy Madagascar hissing cockroach. Because of her history of survival, she feels uniquely equipped to provide a guide for readers in taking a walk with Frank, a 300-pound reticulated python. 

She needs a companion for Frank, and chooses a young, hesitant boy. She is very aware that it is a tricky business she is suggesting. But Celeste wants the boy (and readers) to believe that she has all the answers for a successful excursion. In a series of steps, beginning with the type of python chosen, Celeste brings up numerous scenarios to help survive the promenade. As she moves from point to point, she shares expert knowledge concerning pythons: anatomy, camouflage, movement, size, methods of attack ... the list goes on. After offering a bunch of 'bad ideas', she ends with a 'good' one. She suggests that a snack might prevent being eaten by a ravenous python. That plan goes awry! 

Fun and full of pertinent facts for those with an interest in the mighty python, there is lots to learn here while also being entertained and enlightened. Kathryn Durst's illustrations are as goofy as the premise for the story, while also including graphs that are practical and useful. 

"At night, animal bodies can be much hotter
than the cooler air. And when that happens, 
Frank can "see" the heat of an animal's body.
Not with his eyes but with a row of tiny holes
on his face called HEAT PITS.
Heat pits work like NIGHT-VISION GOGGLES
and let Frank see animal heat even in pitch-black 

Did you know that?                                                                                      

Monday, March 15, 2021

The One Thing You'd Save, written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast. 2021. $22.99 ages 8 and up t

"C'mon, people - you hear me, 
you gotta be real about this! 

If a fire burns everything up,
you're gonna need money. A lot.

Am I only one here with any smarts?

What an awesome book, and a perfect premise for conversations with middle grade readers! In poetic verse inspired by sijo, Linda Sue Park has a class respond to Ms. Chang's question: "Imagine your home is on fire. You're allowed to save one thing. Your family and pets are safe, so don't worry about them."

The students are inspired to think critically about what is of importance to them. Some responses are funny; some thoughtful; some inspiring. All are a window into the mind of the person sharing their answer to the question. The diversity in the answers is sure to have readers wanting to further discuss the choices made, and perhaps come up with a second answer to the well-posed question. 

"Ms. Chang, is it okay if - does one collection count? 
I keep them together, on one shelf, all ninety-three of them. Ninety-three china animals. They come from boxes of tea ...

... My favorite is the Siamese cat Sandra gave me last year for my birthday. I'd been trying to get it for ages! Best friends know that kind of thing. It was the best present ever."

In his first illustrated book Robert Sae-Heng provides gray-toned images in appropriate settings for the objects chosen by each member of the class. I would love to be a fly on the wall in a middle grade classroom where this book is shared as a mentor text for class responses. 

The author adds a note about sijo, a form of traditional Korean poetry. 

If your house were on fire, do you know what you would save? 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Ten Beautiful Things, written by Molly Beth Griffin and illustrated by Maribel Lechuga. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House. 2021. $19.95 ages 4 and up

"Lily concentrated on the game and found
number three real fast - a red-winged blackbird
perched on a swaying stalk of last year's corn.
It was dark and bright all at once,
its beak wide open in a song they couldn't hear.

There are times when we need to look to our world for beautiful things. That act of gratitude can bring a sense of peace to our world. Lily is making a big change in her life. She is moving, without her parents, to live with her Gram in Iowa. What has occasioned the change is not divulged. 

All of Lily's belongings are packed in her Gram's car as together they make the long trip from her urban home to a new house in the countryside. Gram suggests the 'beautiful things' game as a way to distract Lily from her worries and in hopes of making the trip seem shorter. Lily is not convinced that it will help at all. At first, she doesn't see one beautiful thing.  As time passes, she is helped by Gram to find beauty in the world, and Lily's mood changes. 

After a quick rest stop that allows the two to breathe in the 'earthy and rich' smells of mud, they resume their journey. A double page spread as they near their destination clearly shows the beauty of a summer storm - wind, dark clouds, lightning strikes, and intermittent rains. The scene leaves them speechless. And then, they are HOME, the final beautiful thing of their long journey. 

"None of this was easy. 
Maybe it would never be easy.
But she belonged with Gram now. 
She belonged here now.

The accompanying digital artwork provides natural drama for their day-long search, and expressive moments for a young girl facing the unknown. Still, the last beautiful scene showing the love the two share brings their game full circle.                                                                                   

Saturday, March 13, 2021

First Friend: How Dogs Evolved From Wolves to Become Our Best Friends. Written by Kersten Hamilton and illustrated by Jaime Kim. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2021. $25.99 ages 3 and up


"Still, the wolf watched as the girl hunted, 
and learned. 
The girl watched as the wolf hunted,
and learned. 

The sun went down, the world turned round,
and years and years went by. 

And then ... "

This appealing new book shows young readers how, through many centuries, wolves have developed to become the dogs we know and love today. In the beginning, both humans and wolves were competitors as hunters. 

The story begins with a focus on a young girl and a wolf pups being together. They faced their world with bravery. As they grew, it was evident that they could not be friends. Despite that, they found comfort in watching each other hunt and gather. As wolves became braver and moved closer to human dwellings on the hunt for discarded bones, another wolf cub found comfort in being with a little boy. As they grew, everyone knew it was not possible for them to be friends ... yet. 

The two watched each other closely, interested in and amused by each other's actions. Still, they spent little time together. It would take years and many meetings before a young girl would meet another wolf cub. This time, the two made trades and hunted together. Still, they lived separate lives. Finally, it would be many more years before a young boy and a wolf cub loved each other enough to be best friends. That was the start of something very special ... the pup left its pack to follow the boy when his family moved to a new home.

Each of those meetings, over centuries, led to the strong and true relationship that families feel for a dog they call their own today. Always a child - and a puppy!  

Back matter includes further information concerning this evolution from wolf to dog, survival, similarities between species, a note about the book itself, and a selected bibliography. 

Friday, March 12, 2021

Lights On Wonder Rock, written and illustrated by David Litchfield. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Heather was having so much fun
with her new friend. But then she 
noticed something on one of the 
computer screens. It was her family, 
searching for her in the woods.

There are people who dream of encountering an alien. Heather knows exactly what such an otherworldly moment felt like. As a young girl she was adventurous and unafraid. One night she snuck away from home to sit in the darkness on Wonder Rock. She loved the peace of the darkness; she also had a dream. 

"Heather sat in the darkness and shone her 
flashlight up into the night sky,
where the stars sparkled with magic. 

She was hoping that someone
out there would see her light."

Her consuming interest in outer space led Heather to know about the aliens that had visited. She hoped her signals would cause that very thing to happen for her.  Lo and behold! It happened one night at Wonder Rock. Her visit with her new alien friend so consumed the two that she did not realize her parents were frantically searching for her. The new friends said goodbye, with promises to meet again. Through many years and countless attempts to make contact, it was not to be. 

Time continued moving her ahead. Heather grew older. Only occasionally did she return to Wonder Rock. The older she got, the more she lost hope for a return visit. Then, it did happen again. The friends were happily reunited, and through an illustrated conversation decided that Heather would make a visit to her old friend's home. As she watched Earth move further and further away, she realized she had made a mistake. There was only one way to fix it ... to explain ... to show where real magic truly existed. The ship returned to Earth and family. 

David Litchfield's artwork is glorious ... making this story a joy to share. Changing perspectives, a perfect palette for every scene, the use of light, the delightful, art-filled visits, the expressive faces of  Heather and her alien friend, and the final gentle spread leave the reader feeling content and full of wonder.                                                                                        

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Anonymouse, written by Vikki VanSickle and illustrated by Anna Pirolli. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021.$21.99 ages 4 and up


"Across the sky a colony of bats was settling
in for a good day's sleep, when they noticed 
something unusual ... 

... very unusual. There was no explanation, 
only a name.


Anonymouse is an up-and-coming graffiti artist whose works are meant to speak to the many animals trying to stay safe and healthy in their often inhospitable urban environs. Using an eye-catching pink spray paint, the artist demands the attention of rats, bats, birds, ants, raccoons, dogs, squirrels, cats, rabbits, even a snail. The images bring joy to the creatures affected by the artist's work, and a giggle to those reading the book. As time marches on, things change. 

"The art faded, became obscured
or disappeared completely. 

There hadn't been anything new from 
Anonymouse in a long time.

The tables are turned. Now, the creatures worry about the artist. What has life in the cruel city done to the tiny mouse? The animals have learned to look at their landscape differently. They have their tiny mentor to thank for their own artistic view of life as they now live it. Readers learn that Anonymouse has no intention of stopping her good work. 

The many sweet stories told in the accompanying artwork are sure to lead to focused attention and lively discussion about animals, art and the environment.                                                                                


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Shy Willow, written and illustrated by Cat Min. Levine Querido. Raincoast. 2021.$24.99 ages 4 and up

"It made her mad to think about Theo
and his mom waiting and staring at a 
dark, empty sky. 
If someone had to deliver the letter 
to the moon by midnight, she knew it 
had to be her.

Willow is apprehensive to go beyond her self-imposed borders. Within those borders she finds comfort and contentment. She has chosen an unused mailbox as her abode; has skillfully decorated its interior; and only occasionally takes a quick look the mayhem of the urban landscape that surrounds her. 

One morning, an envelope is inadvertently dropped through the slot. Luckily, Willow is a reader and sees that it is a note to the moon. Theo, the young boy who posted it, wants to make a plan for a birthday surprise for his mother. Willow is enchanted by his thoughtfulness, and his kind gesture. Despite her reservations, she will do what it takes to ensure the message gets to its rightful place. 

It is an obligation not taken lightly. Willow must leave the quiet comfort of her home, and she makes many attempts to get the letter to its destination. No matter what she tries, she fails. Inspiration strikes when she takes her prized journal and uses it and a balloon to find way to get the moon's attention. Mission accomplished! 

While I can share the premise for this captivating story, it is hard to truly describe the watercolor and colored pencil scenes that accompany the telling. Cat Min's luminous art is as gentle as Willow, and as uplifting as the boy's wish for his mother's birthday. A new friendship is forged through feelings of warmth and kindness. Bravo!

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Fort on the Moon, written by Maggie Pouncey and illustrated by Larry Day. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2020. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"So we wait. And at last the right night
arrives. We lie in our beds, as still as moon 
craters, till we no longer hear our parents'
soft voices and the ribbon of light beneath 
our door disappears into darkness.

I have two granddaughters who spend a good part of their days living in their imaginations. There is little they are not willing to dream, to discuss, to embark upon with determination and delight. Dodge and Fox are much the same. Their newest project is decidedly 'out-of-this-world'. It is Dodge who shares their plan with the book's readers. 

They have all the equipment they need, and an appropriate place for their launch to the moon. They name their ship The White Dolphin. While still at home, they use their impressive engineering skills to build the practice 'fort' there. They reassure their parents that they will be all right when they explain they have already made the same trip four times previously. 

Patiently they wait for their chance to launch. With careful cunning and impeccable timing, they climb the steps to the top of their house. The ship is ready, the materials loaded. They are headed for the Sea of Tranquility. 

"When you travel to the moon, 
you must go very fast, faster than
you've ever gone. The Earth, far
behind you, looks like a marble.

Despite difficulties, they do what they have come to do and return home, drowsy and delighted with their mission. Watercolor and gouache pictures bring their adventure to thrilling life, and add to the gentle humor of this story of creative brothers closely connected over a shared flight of fancy.                                                                                       

Monday, March 8, 2021

Terry Fox and Me, written by Mary Beth Leatherdale and illustrated by Milan Pavlovic. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2020. $21.99 ages 6 and up


"The short kid is the worst player. 
His name is Terry Fox. The coach
says wrestling might be a better sport
for him. But if Terry comes to practice,
the coach won't cut him from the team. 
I shouldn't be glad that I'm better 
than Terry ... but I am.

This new book about Terry Fox is told from a different viewpoint than any others. Doug Alward, Terry's best friend, is the man who drove the van that was right there with Terry on his incredible journey to raise funds for cancer research. They had known each other from early adolescence. For a time, they were competitive with each other in sports. Terry was not good at basketball; Doug was. Terry wanted to be better and eventually convinced Doug to help him. Their friendship flourished. 

In high school things changed. Terry was always with his basketball buds, and Doug was training in earnest for cross-country. Just before a big race, Terry called to wish Doug luck. His support was encouraging. At university Terry revealed that he had cancer and would lose his leg. As he recovered, Terry mentioned his idea for running across Canada. Doug knew how tenacious Terry had always been; he believed him. 

His rehabilitation in hospital went well. Soon Terry raced against Doug in his wheelchair. They trained together, encouraging each other to do their best. Once again, Terry broached the subject of running across Canada to raise research money. A new leg, a new gait and Terry trained, trained, trained ... despite extreme pain. Soon, the two were ready to begin their journey together. 

"The 28-kilometre race is gruelling. The course 
is steep and along a busy highway. I finish eighth - 
one of my best times. Terry comes in last, grinning
from ear to ear. 

The crowd cheers. 

"That's my best friend!" I shout. 
(If it's the truth, it's not really bragging.)

The run was planned, the hard training continued; nothing stopped Terry. They agreed to do the trip together 'one step at a time'. Spring arrived. They gathered everything they needed for success. The run began in Newfoundland. 

Told with love and admiration in first person voice, Doug Alward allows readers to see the young man Terry was, and the relentless runner he became. 

Memorable illustrations created in pencil, crayon and inks use an appealing color palette. They bring an understanding to the long-standing relationship that led to Terry's run. They focus attention on the two friends from start to finish. A map of their route is telling, and daunting.   

Back matter includes a note from Terry's brother Darrell, archival photographs, a note from Doug Alward, a look at the training regimen that led the two to begin their Marathon of Hope, and a timeline of Terry's too-short life. 

"Even if I don't finish,
we need others to continue. 
It's got to keep going without me.
                             -Terry Fox

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Tiny Monsters: The Strange Creatures That Live On Us, In Us, and Around Us, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 7 and up


"Some Like It Hot

You won't meet a marine scale worm
in your home or backyard. It lives deep in 
the ocean, near jets of scalding hot water
that flow from volcanic vents on the sea
floor. This worm preys on other animals
that live near the vents.

I was prepared to shudder while reading this husband-and-wife team's newest book of nonfiction. I am not keen to know too much, and certainly have no abiding need to know what creatures live on me, or in me. Around, perhaps! Kids will definitely want to know about the many tiny monsters described and shown here. This team has mastered the art of in-depth research, and their artistic acumen is shown in every book they write and illustrate. 

They offer a warning about what readers will learn in their amazing new book:

" ... after meeting some of these tiny monsters, 
you may never look at your cereal, your pillow, 
or your eyelashes in quite the same way.

In brilliant collage artwork, based on images captured by using an electron microscope, readers are introduced to the tiny creatures promised in the title. Alongside each expanded image, a quick note about said creature adds pertinent information.  Perspective is an important part of many books from Steve Jenkins, and actual size is clearly shown on each spread. This allows access to new learning at every turn of the page. 

Many of the creatures shown are almost too small to be seen. Some will be familiar: ticks, lice, fleas. Many others are not. The white backgrounds help to provide a unique and up-close look at each tiny monster. A 'note about color' in back matter explains that the images are based on black-and-white electron microscopic images; "the colors in the book were chosen to highlight the forms and details of the animals, and they aren't always realistic."  Also included there are thumbnail sketches of each creature in order of presentation, and further information about them. 

Impressive, as always! They are all here on Earth with us; we might as well learn what we can about them. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Chickenology:The Ultimate Encyclopedia. Written by Barbara Sandri and Francesco Giubbilini and illustrated by Camilla Pintonato. Princeton Architectural Press, Raincoast. 2021. $25.95 all ages



Some people love cats, some love dogs ... 
and some prefer chickens. You don't need
a lot of room to raise three or four chickens. 
All it takes is a small garden where they 
can scratch around. Chickens are irresistible 
companions: it is impossible not to grow fond 
of them!

If you have dreamed of raising chickens in your backyard, on your small farm, or anywhere else, you will find this book essential reading for all that it teaches about these quite remarkable birds, or pets. I was surprised at how interested I was to just keep reading. There is so much to learn here. 

The table of contents shows that the book is separated into five sections: Discovering the World of Chickens, What's A Chicken Made Of/, The Egg Up Close, Chickens and Humans, and A World of Chicken Breeds. The idea for having a table of contents is not only to show readers what is included in the book: it is also to provide an invitation to what is of most interest to the person with this book in their hands. 

I was interested in learning about the connection between chickens and humans, so I turned to page 46, and started there. I was initially surprised that the chicken came into contact with humans five thousand years ago! At that time, they were wild and lived in the jungle. As they evolved, they became close companions, and eventually became the ancestors of the many different breeds found throughout the world today. 

In the very competent hands of both authors and an ingenious illustrator, the book demands the full attention of all who choose to pick it up. The design holds great appeal, and the information provided goes on and on. Each page is detailed, matching the written text. There is infinite variety in the information presented, while also assuring that readers find it to be accessible and satisfying.  Readers will choose their own favorite parts from the abundance of facts shared. Kid readers will be keen to share much of what they have encountered on page after page.  

The text holds attention throughout. Readers will learn about wings, anatomy, eggs, types, a chicken's place in the literature of world communities, and the benefits of having chickens for those raising them and for their gardens. Found around the world, in a great variety of breeds, readers will be astounded by the many differences in size, shape, color and benefits. I hold out hope that this book will lead absorbed readers to want to learn more. 

It's my understanding that this outstanding book is to be followed by Pigology. I will remain on the lookout for a chance to see that when it is available.                                                                                    

No Vacancy, written by Tziporah Cohen. Groundwood, 2020. $18.95 ages 10 and up

"It's Sunday. We open tomorrow.
Dad is yelling bad words at the computer
at the Reception desk. Mom is shouting at 
Sammy, who doesn't want to put on his 
clothes. When I told her I was going over
to the diner, she shouted at me too, handed 
me a broom and told me to sweep the 
upstairs balcony and the walkway in front
of the first-floor rooms.

This is a terrific middle grade novel that introduces readers to Miriam and her family, and the wonderful people of their new community. They have recently purchased, and now moved to Greenvale, New York to be the owners of the Jewel Motor Inn. The family has an enormous amount of work to do to get ready for their first guests. Miriam would rather be back in Manhattan where she was happy. Despite much hard work and a lot of help from Maria, the motel's maid and Uncle Mordy, the new business venture seems doomed for failure. 

This is the story of community, friendship and diversity. Miriam's family is Jewish, her new friend Kate is Catholic. Kate's family runs the diner that is next door to the motel. It is famous for her grandmother's grape pie. It draws customers off the highway for a quick stop. The motel does not have the same draw. When it looks as if all is lost, the two friends come up with a plan to attract more tourists. It works. The motel is filled with guests, the diner is very busy, and everyone is delighted. Will Miriam's worry about the lie they are telling cause her to spill the beans? Why is her mother reluctant to invite people to share their Jewish traditions?  

A hate crime has Miriam and Kate questioning the whys of the action. Wise advice come from Father Donovan: 

"At its worst, religion can make us hate each other, make us suspicious of people who believe differently from what we believe. But at its best, I believe religion can bring out the good in all of us.

Filled with thoughtful, masterful writing, No Vacancy offers readers a wonderful cast of characters, a chance to consider what is right or wrong, to look at differences with tender care and concern, and to look at racism as it exists in society. There is a lot of tension here; there is also quiet understanding and a great deal of kindness. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

We Became Jaguars, written by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Woodrow White. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2021. $24.99 ages 5 and up


"My grandmother got on the 
carpet and growled. 

"Let's be jaguars," she said. 

I made the shape of a jaguar.

A grandmother's visit inspires an amazing journey for the young child who narrates this transformative story for early readers. The child starts by saying that the two have only seen each other one time; the grandmother does not live nearby. The two have been left to get to know each other. 

Grandmother quickly drops to her knees, suggesting they 'be jaguars'. Who could guess the adventures that suggestion might bring? The two quickly become jaguars; in shape, in size, in speed, and in temperament. Only then are they prepared to leave the living room for the neighboring woods, as the majestic cats they have become.

The adventure leads them past frightened animals and birds, in travels laced with laughter, prey, great wonder, soothing drinks in a silver lake, and a walk across the top of the lake's broad expanse. Only then do they stop to rest before conquering a mountain, and crossing an ocean. 

"We were somewhere in the Himalayas
when I remembered that I had school. 
"I should go back pretty soon," I said.

Grandmother agrees, supplies a telling note for the teacher and all is well.  

This leap of imagination is captured in perfectly chosen text that uses jaguar as a noun to describe the two humans as they set forth on a nighttime journey together, while also using jaguared and jaguaring as a verb to describe their stealthy movements. Readers will recognize the child's initial hesitation, the doubt that some feats are possible, and then the humorous reason for returning home.  

Woodrow White creates a setting that allows readers to fully believe in this incredible trek. He allows his audience to recognize the two in his renderings of the lithe creatures they have become. Expression-filled faces and the scene at the silver lake remind readers of that, and bring the story full circle with the pleading eyes of the child and the acceptance of the grandmother as the story ends.                                                                                               

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Alphabet's Alphabet, written by Chris Harris and illustrated by Dan Santat. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2020. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"An M is an N with a cane for support. 

An N is a Z doing push-ups for sport."

Once they have figured out just how true that is, readers will want to move quickly backward and forward to see what else Chris Harris and Dan Santat have in store for them. Playful and witty, this is another wonderful addition to your collection of alphabet books. I am continually intrigued by the many new and entertaining ways authors and illustrators find to present these 26 letters that have such power. 

As the reader moves onward from the letter a, they are helped to discover the many ways that one letter favors another, as is shown in the examples above. Poetic verses open and close the book. Chris Harris first asks if the alphabet might be a family just as readers are part of a family that shares some similarities. 

"We all look like family, so could it be true ... 
The alphabet's really a family too?
For all of the letters - from A on through Z -
Can look like each other in some way, to me ... "

The rhyming pairs that describe each of the letters are fun to read and are presented in order. Each is then identified with the other letter that is shown to prove the way each relates to the other. Leave it to the incomparable Dan Santat to thoroughly prove that premise with zany illustrations sure to capture attention and tickle the funny bone. He matches the settings to the description with panache and clever placement. It's all in the details as so often happens with his fabulous artwork. Endpapers help early readers with arrows to show the way to forming the letters carefully and accurately. Once done, the back endpaper invites readers to decode a secret message, using what they have learned and ensuring that the fun won't end too early. 

The final verse offers this:

"Twenty-six letters, unique from each other ... 
And yet, every letter looks just like another - 
The same way that we are each special creations
And yet still resemble our friends and relations.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species, by Ana Pego, Bernardo P. Carvalho and Isabel Minhos Martins. Translated by Jane Springer. David Suzuki Institute, Greystone Kids. 2020. $24.95 all ages


"The study concluded that every year, about 
9 million tons (8 million metric tons) of plastics 
end up in the oceans. Almost all of it is packaging! 
This is equivalent to about 1,000 tons (900 metric tons)
of plastic being dumped into the sea every hour. 
Every single minute, that's a truckload full of plastic, 
without stopping." 

I have read a number of nonfiction books about the plastics found in our oceans today. Although I feel that I have gathered a lot of information through that reading, I was totally captivated by the story told by Ana Pego. She is a marine biologist; she has been gathering every type of plastic found on seashores around the world for many years. In 2015, she decided to name what she had been finding ... she calls it Plasticus maritimus. 

The plastics found in the oceans today are a threat to our world. Writing the text with Isabel Minhos Martins allows a first-person narrative that is presented in a clear and comprehensive way for readers. In the first chapter Ms. Pego explains why the oceans are of such importance. In following chapters, she presents a 'field guide' to the many types of plastics identified, and some that have not yet been. She describes how these plastics are made, how we use them, and what happens to them when we throw them out.

She includes photos and descriptions of the many types of plastics, and adds thumbnail photos of many of the familiar plastics that have been picked up by beach searchers. Creating a network of people who work hard to clear and clean beaches, many of the plastics found have never been identified. On one page she includes a series of photos asking for help in figuring out what they are. 

I appreciate that there is an extensive section to help readers keep the many types of plastics in common use in homes out of the landfills and oceans. She encourages readers to rethink, refuse, reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle. Recycling should be a last resort, since there are so many problems with recycling efforts. These difficulties are shared before the book closes with photos and much additional information in the book's back matter. Readers wanting to know more will find help there. 

Readers are also invited to follow Ana on her Facebook page:                                                                      

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Maya's Big Scene, written and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"All right! So let's start at the revolution scene. 
Timmy, you stand here, and Tom, you go over there, 
and ride in on your horse. 

Now, please, 
quiet, everyone! 

For fans of Colette's Lost Pet (2017) and Albert's Quiet Quest (2019), this is a trip back to the Mile End community, and all of the Clark Alley neighborhood kids. This time they are involved in a play for which Maya has made herself director. The action for readers starts with a costume box. The players are keen to see what it holds; each knows exactly what they are hoping to see. They have been practicing all day, and they are certain they are ready for the upcoming performance. Maya wants perfection! 

While the others stand about looking disgruntled by the change in plans, Maya makes it known that she is in charge. Surely you know someone like Maya, don't you? She demands attention, and the crew gets right to another rehearsal. Finally, it's costume time. While some actors find exactly what they are looking for, others are less enchanted. But, wait! Don';t forget that Maya is the one in charge. 

"Wait a minute, Are you telling me that this 
is my king's costume? This ... this ... pink thing?

What's wrong with pink?

I don't like pink. 

Well, in my queendom, that's what the king is 

Maya is demanding, bossy, uncompromising, and often annoying! It takes one child's voice of reason to make her see things from the actors' viewpoints. She acquiesces, the show goes on with all involved happy to be there. Soon, from the other side of two fences come quiet voices of appreciation for Maya and her magnificent troupe. 



That was triumphant! 

Maya, the drama queen!

The bold colors chosen as the palette for this story bring focus to both expression and emotion as the drama of the story plays out.