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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Etty Darwin and the Four Pebble Problem, written and illustrated by Lauren Soloy. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $21.99 ages 6 and up


"Sometimes Etty thought of new questions ... 

Do butterflies 
live everywhere in 
the world?

I've found butterflies 
everywhere I've 
ever been. 

Except in the middle 
of the ocean.

This is a most enjoyable telling of a fanciful story that might have happened between Charles Darwin and his daughter Henrietta. Etty loved being with her father on an oval path he had made to provide a place to exercise and think quietly as he walked. They occasionally shared The Sandwalk

"They would begin by deciding how many 
times to go around and then setting out 
flint pebbles to keep track. 

Let's do four. 

Four it is."

While they walked Etty felt comfortable sharing some of her own questions. On this particular day, she wondered if her father believed in fairies. Her father, always honest with her, felt it hard to believe in something he had never witnessed. Etty explained that she was not SURE there were not fairies, as sometimes she thinks she has seen one. Her father remained skeptical, but talked to her seriously about using close observation to look at the world around her. Their talk was thoughtful and open, and often led to new ideas .. for both of them. 

'The artwork in this book was rendered in watercolors, pencils, crayons, pastels, gouache, papers, ink and pixels using brushes, scissors, glue sticks and love'. Wonderful it is, creating a Victorian setting true to the time the Darwins would have been sharing their thinking path and providing natural scenes meant to invite important questions for discussion. Lovely, shifting perspectives keep readers attentive and impressed.                                                                               

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

UNBOUND: The Life and Art of Judith Scott, written by Joyce Scott with Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet. Art by Melissa Sweet. Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 6 and up


"Judy has never spoken a word. We wonder if she will 
ever talk. The doctors say that she is slow and will not 
get better, but they don't know Judy like I do. She is perfect
just the way she is. She knows things that no one else
knows and sees the world in way that I never will.

Joyce Scott shares the story of her life with her twin sister, Judy. As children they are extremely close, and spend their days together. Enrolment in kindergarten brings a big change. The family learns that Judy has a weakened heart, associated with Down Syndrome. The doctors are not hopeful; they say she will not 'get better'. To help Judy learn to speak, she is sent away to school. Joyce's world is dramatically changed. Judy lives in a 'horrible gray place' until she is an adult. 

Joyce's many visits to see her sister leave her sad and concerned. Finally, after living far from her beloved sister for too long, she begins to make plans to have her move to California from Ohio. Only then does she find out Judy is deaf. After spending time together at home, Joyce realizes Judy needs more. She needs a place where she can learn and be with others. They find the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland. Judy spends five days a week there. The rest of the story is ever hopeful and inspiring.. 

The three collaborators work wonderfully together to tell this family story. Ms. Scott shares the life she lived with and without her twin, the agony of their separation, and the joy be found in a new artistic passion. Melissa Sweet adds depth to the story with quiet telling images from the sisters' early years, and then the colorful joy found in Judy's art. 

Back matter is important, and plentiful: a note about the Creative Growth Art Center, information about Down Syndrome, a timeline, an author's note, an illustrator's note, sources and organizations. Examples of Judy's fibre art sculptures, which made her famous following her death, are included.                                                                              

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Turtles are found on every continent ... EXCEPT ANTARCTICA! Written and illustrated by Todd Sturgell. Sourcebooks, Raincoast. 2021. $24.50 ages 5 and up


"Hey, wait. Where's the dung beetle?

He's with us. 

Why would a dung beetle travel to Antarctica
with a turtle and an owl? 

Two words: penguin poop.

This book is not going as planned."

It's understandable that many readers believe most animals are not found in Antarctica. They have often been told so. The turtle that questions this statement as fact sets out to prove the writer wrong. 

"This is a turtle. 

Um. Hello there. 

Turtles are found on every continent except Antarctica. 

Hmph! We'll see about that!

They are cold-blooded and cannot survive in a cold, harsh ... 
                             Hey, where are you going? 


While the writer tries to dissuade such action, the turtle proves impervious to the reasoning. The writer moves on to an owl. The owl does not like being defined by animal facts, and is ready to travel with the turtle to disprove such bunk. Then, a dung beetle, a snake, a mouse, and a bee join the journey. Wait! A frog, too. The book's narrator remains adamant; the book's animals continue to defy his text. 

Upon arrival, the travellers are met by penguins, who are found in Antarctica! They are very surprised to see such strange visitors. It isn't long until those visiting animals come to understand the depth of cold found in the bracing winds that make this environment very inhospitable. They are soon on their way home. The writer, however, doesn't know when to stop making declarative statements. That creates a brand-new scenario with an emperor penguin. HA! 

In back matter, the author provides bulleted fact boxes for the animals included in his story, plus further animal facts, and data concerning the continent itself.

Monday, September 27, 2021

How to Apologize, written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2021. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"And when you've made a mistake 
that has hurt someone or something, 
the right thing to do is apologize.

Apologizing can be hard, especially 
if the other person is mad ... "

Does it seem too easy to apologize these days? Every time we turn around someone in the news is apologizing for one thing or another. It is very difficult to tell if that apology is honest and forthright, or forced and judicious. How do we get back to just saying sorry ... no excuses, no blame? 

Apologizing is an art learned early if we want it to be meaningful, and long-lasting. David LaRochelle begins with that premise with this book that is comically illustrated by collaborator Mike Wohnoutka. Together they balance, with touches of both humor and concern, a message that will help young readers navigate the complexity of being truly sorry for mistakes made. In charming scenarios, they play out ways in which those who are in the wrong show real regret for their actions. 

An apology doesn't have to be complicated.  On one side of a double page spread they show a NO for making their point. On the facing page, they change it up to YES. The examples are of actions that often happen for the the children and adults who are reading this book together. It's a great 'how-to' on a tough subject. 

Resolving conflicts in a real issue at home, in school, in the community, and in the workplace these days. Perhaps we all can use their advice to make for better days. Apologizing should be simple and earnest; too many times it is not. Without preaching in any way, this book certainly makes an important point. 

"If possible, try to fix the mistake. 

But sometimes you can't. 

In that case, you can still say you're 
sorry, then take steps to avoid 
making the same mistake again.

We're very, very sorry!" 


Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Strangest Thing in the Sea and Other Creatures of the Deep, written by Rachel Poliquin and illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler. Kiids Can Press, 2021. $19.99 ages 6 and up


"I look like a dancing tutu. 
Graceful as a ballerina, 
I flutter my feathers up 
and down, up and down, as 
I swan through the water. 

Am I the strangest thing 
in the sea?

Rachel Poliquin is back with another intriguing book that will have her audience checking out some of the strangest creatures in the sea. She isn't kidding when she asks that question in the book's title. She has done her amazing research once again ... and has come up with 12 rarely seen or recognized animals that make their homes in the water. 

Her introduction tells her readers: 

"The seas are filled with strangeness. 

Dancing feathers. Goblin teeth. See-through heads. 
Creatures that seem to be made from stardust. 

Some animals carry lanterns to light their way ... 
or is to lure their victims through the darkness?
Some seem to be rocks ... 

But what is the strangest thing of all?"

It is a perfect question to ask as readers begin to make their way from spread to spread. Each is brilliantly created with inviting text and with art that clearly and beautifully illustrates the written words. Those words are placed on the verso, with the repetitive question: "But what is the strangest thing of all?"

After the question, a gatefold opens to provide a first-person reveal that lists a number of specific statements about each introduced creature, but asserts that it is not the strangest thing of all. Additionally, a series of paragraphs provide facts needed to describe the creature more fully, and a chart giving size, prey, habitat, and depth is also included. 

If not this one, then the reader must move on the next. So it goes until readers meet the stangest thing of all! What a surprise! Kids are sure to be intrigued; some will even want to follow up and learn more about these odd, little-known creatures. A flap at the back shows the Wonders of the Deep and places each strange thing in the sunlit, twilight, and midnight zones along with their depths. Finally, a note is added about the abyss - the deepest part of the waters which reaches to 11 km. Amazing!  

Saturday, September 25, 2021

All We Need, written by Kathy Wolff and illustrated by Margaux Meganck. Bloomsbury, Raincoast. 2021. $24.50 ages 4 and up


"All we need
may be found in a book, 
in a welcoming classroom, or a curious look. 
We can try and may fail, but we'll gain in return ...

All we need ... 
is to learn."

This warm and engaging book presents diverse families as the author explains what they have and who they depend on to have the resources that make their lives happy and healthy. The book's endpapers, which offer scenes of happy twosomes enjoying each other's company, invite readers to move inside to see who they might be. The title page shows a young Muslim mother with her two young children passing through a gate than leads to a lush green park. The park sports a water pad where children are happily playing while their caretakers keep a close watch. 

Each new double page spread continues the story with the arrival of new characters, all helping to show what the most important needs are: air, water, to learn, a home, food, family and friends, and to share. As the group grows so will a child's interest in watching the happy scenes play out. When they leave the park and travel home, darkening skies allow the warmth of home to draw children in, and to have a close look at those who will meet for a fine community meal. With hugs, smiles, peeks in the pots, and a table laden with all sorts of deliciousness, soon all are gathered 'to share' the bounty that comes when  the community gathers together to share. 

The final spread encourages careful attention to all those gathered and causes readers to go back to see those same people in previous scenarios. This is a book to be read aloud, savored, and discussed. Text and art pair beautifully to show all we really need to make a good and happy life.                                                                          

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Worm Family Has Its Picture Taken, written by Jennifer Frank and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. Penguin Random House, 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"But then she thought about how worms
don't have any hair. How could they look 
poufy and gorgeous in their picture? 

Oh, well, she decided. We will still have a 
nice way to remember our family.

Family portraits can create chaos. Some family members like the idea; others do not. Moms are often the impetus for making the appointment with the photographer. In this case, Mrs. Worm is worried that she won't remember all the wonderful things her children are doing. So, it is her idea to have that family picture taken. The oldest daughter, Emma, loves the idea and excitedly anticipates seeing the photo gracing the wall of their tunnel. 

She is quickly off to share the news with friends. Ellie remembers the big family smiles; Ellie is a beaver. Abigail, a cat, talks about her visit to the beauty salon with her owner. Olivia, a blue butterfly regales Emma with a story about all the beautiful colors in her family picture. Emma's trip home is not nearly as exciting as the trip to share her news. 

Emma's concern haunts her through the night before their appointment. In morning's light, she has a great idea for her family. Convincing them to dress up in costumes is met with differing feelings. When Mr. Muskrat the photographer doesn't recognize them because of their fake teeth, their wigs, and their colorful clothing, he encourages them to be themselves. It is up to the family to make the photo special, as only worms can do. I am happy to tell you the family portrait becomes an annual tradition. 

David Ezra Stein uses 'ballpoint pen, photocopy, watercolor, toothbrush, and Crayola airbrush' to create the warm and wonderful images that bring Jennifer Frank's delightfully funny tale to their young audience.                                                                                      

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Phoebe Dupreee Is Coming to Tea, written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Alea Marley. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $22.99 ages 4 and up

"I've layered a tray with tarts and eclairs
and lined up the guests - one doll and two bears. 

I bring out the flowers, the china and tea. 
Now everything's perfect for Phoebe Dupree!

It's a pretty exciting day for our young narrator, while waiting for her friend Phoebe to arrive for an afternoon visit. She has worked hard to create a setting for the 'perfect' tea party. Phoebe is worthy of the best. Her skills in science, art, and singing are quite exceptional, and Abby is so proud that she has agreed to come for tea. 

A big part of the preparation has to do with making sure that her dog Louie is as presentable as the table is, and that he knows all the rules of decorum when you are welcoming such an accomplished guest. Louis seems to understand. 

"Louie bows sweetly. 
She scratches his chin. 

Then oh-so-politely, 
she sits in her seat.
"Here, have some tea
while I bring in the treats!"

In bringing in the heavy tray of treats, the worst possible thing happens. Abby trips. The resulting chaos is catastrophic. Louie, coming in from the pool, doesn't help. Will Phoebe be annoyed at the mess created? Is there a chance that the afternoon will be ruined? 

Expressive, warm digital illustrations add drama and joy to the visit; they show that when things don't go according to plan, it might just be perfect. This is a terrific readaloud, filled with accomplished rhyme, humor, and chaos ... all in good fun.                                                                          

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Shark Book, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2021. $24.50 ages 8 and up


"Spiny dogfish sharks are born alive in 
litters that average six or seven pups. 
These sharks spend up to 24 months in 
the womb. They are born with a yolk 
sac - their source of food in the womb -
still attached.

My year with books wouldn't seem right without a new book (or two) from this incredibly accomplished husband-and-wife team. It always surprises me a bit because I readily admit I am not, not, not a science aficionado. But I find myself very interested in the subjects they choose to tackle with an enormous amount of time spent on the careful research they do to inform young readers about so many topics of interest. 

Now, you know and I know, that sharks are of very high interest to legions of school-age children. My younger granddaughter is not one of them ... too scary! Many kids have exactly the opposite reaction. The more they know, they happier they are. Steve Jenkins and Robin Page recognize that and are here with another remarkable book meant to inform fans. 

Sharks are 'almost perfect predators' and they make a LOT of people uncomfortable and fearful. 

"Some are big, fast, and dangerous, with powerful 
jaws filled with razor-sharp teeth. Others are gentle
giants, cruising slowly through the sea as they feed
on shrimp and other tiny animals. The largest shark
is as big as a bus, while the smallest could fit in the
palm of your hand.

There are 42 species of sharks included here. Each double-page spread is filled with amazing facts that will help to make readers more aware of their many similarities and differences. They begin with a 'shiver of sharks', showing some that will be familiar, and others that will not be. A turn of the page shows a clearly labelled blue shark, mentioning each part of the shark's anatomy and why it is useful to them. The facts are fascinating and offer a very close look. 

As readers move from spread to spread, they will see how different the sizes really are. Placed alongside a swimming adult human, readers will be astonished at the to scale size comparisons between a human and the sharks presented. Turn the page again, and the authors offer a comparison of their individual ways of giving birth - alive or hatched from an egg. Other topics include food, hunting techniques, jaws, big fish, hammerheads, peculiar species, glow-in-the-dark, adaptations, ancient relatives, record holders, attacks, and those that are endangered at this time.  

If readers are fans of the creators, they will recognize the portrayals in always incredible torn- and cut-paper collage work. The sharks are realistic in both features and coloring. Carefully labelled and presented on white backgrounds, readers get a surprisingly authentic look at each entry. Having the human comparisons will bring some surprising responses. The images are as varied as the species, and the material provided is accessible and often remarkable. 

"About 80 unprovoked shark attacks are 
reported around the world every year. On 
average, seven of these attacks are fatal. 

In the same period, several thousand 
people are killed by lightning and 
thousands more drown.  Rip tides 
are much more dangerous than sharks.

Back matter includes a table that shows page number, name, average adult body length, danger to humans?, and conservation status for each shark presented. There is also a useful bibliography.  

This engaging book will rarely be found on a bookshelf in the classroom, or in the library. Isn't that wonderful? Don't miss it! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Sydney and Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World, written by Jacqueline Davies and illustrated by Deborah Hocking. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2021. $9.99 ages 6 and up


"Taylor and Sydney crept along the edge
of a road. They kept their noses lifted to 
catch any scent. When they heard water 
nearby, they left the road and scrambled
to the top of a small hill. At the bottom of
the hill was a stream.

Sydney Skunk and Taylor Hedgehog are winning characters in this first book in a new series. Two additional adventures are promised in coming months. Readers quickly learn a lot about each one of them. Fans will be pleased to see them again. 

The two live together in their burrow, which just happens to be situated beneath a potting shed in Miss Nancy's garden. Sydney loves to sit and listen to the sounds he can hear above ground. Taylor has a yen to travel and see the world beyond their cozy home. Because Sydney loves his friend, he finally agrees to accompany Taylor on an exploraion of the world beyond his comfort zone. 

Surprisingly, it is Taylor who shows concern over the many new things and people they will see. Sydney shows his different side, when he is the one who consoles his frightened friend. They have never even come in contact with Miss Nancy, and now they are off feeling 'wild, and fearless, and free'.
What could possibly happen? 

There are some surprise twists as they make their way down unknown paths. Their unique strengths help along the way. When all seems lost in a meeting between themselves and a speeding truck, they find help in the most covenient of places. Soon, they are home safe and sound. What might the future hold for the two of them? We must wait and see. 

A new early chapter book series is sure to find firm fans and much enjoyment. Using gouache and colored pencils, Ms. Hocking assures readers a careful look at two very special friends and the setting in which they live and thrive. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

If I Were a Tree, written by Andrea Zimmerman and illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong. Lee & Low Books, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2021. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"If I were a tree, I know what I'd feel.
The warmth of the sun, and squirrels on the run. 
I'd feel nests on my bark, bats hiding till dark, 
The climbing of boots, and worms by my roots.

If I were a tree, that's what I'd feel."

A family adventure and a first-person narration encourage young readers to take a close look at trees, by using each of their senses. As the travel to their camping destination, the two children discuss the many special attributes of the trees they are observing as they pass them by. 

The verses throughout begin with the same premise; If I were a tree, I'd know what ... Each statement is made from the perspective of the trees, and that are so evident on every spread. The imagination soars with thinking about exactly what trees would know, feel, taste, smell, hear, see, love, and again know as the day winds down. 

"If I were a tree, I know what I'd know. 
That days come and go, and green leaves will grow.
I'd know branches can bend, and cold spells will end, 
That spring will renew, and life carries through. 

If I were a tree, that's what I'd know."

Listeners will be entertained by the rhyming verses and accessible text as the family wanders through the forest. They will be charmed by the colorful and detailed digital art as it combines printmaking and collage. Textured images and changing perspectives hold attention and offer much to see. 

In back matter, the author invites readers to take careful note of the trees that grow where they live, and use their own senses to truly understand their many features.                                                                                          

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Secret Life of Viruses: Incredible Science Facts About Germs, Vaccines, and What You Can Do To Stay Healthy, by Mariona Tolosa Sistere: The Ellas Educan Collective. Sourcebooks, Raincoast. 2021. $24.50 ages 6 and up



Hey! How's it going? My name is SARS-COV-2
and I am the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.
I spread super fast and in just a few months I 
managed to infect humans all over the world - 
I caused a pandemic!

Kids are not the only ones who need clear information about what a virus is! There are many adults out there who would do well to sit for a while and read this well-designed and carefully illustrated book that scientifically explains what viruses are, how they spread from one to another, and what our bodies can do to keep us healthy. Accessible and timely, it is needed for each of us to learn more than we already think we know. 

The author starts with a virus telling readers where it can be found, and that it is very powerful. She explains the whats, whys, and hows of virus life, growth, and effects. A catalog of viruses is provided on a double page spread and includes many known, and some lesser-known varieties. 


I give kids chicken pox, 
which can make you 
very itchy! But there's 
a vaccine that can keep 
me from infecting you.

The text includes an illustrated pathway that a virus uses to get into the body, and how the immune system works to fight it. This is followed by the many ways that a virus spreads and how we can help battle illness by staying healthy. I think the page that describes how to stay healthy and be safe from viruses would make a terrific poster for any classroom, as a daily reminder. Viruses also play an important role in the ecosystems on Earth, and have a long history with humans.  

A true or false quiz is included, for those who have been paying close attention. Answers are provided in back matter. Finally, readers are invited to do their best to keep our world healthy by making personal choices and differences in the way we take care of the world we share. 


(but don't obsess over it!) As you already
know, not all viruses are bad, only some. By
staying clean and healthy, you can protect 
yourself and others against the bad viruses.

This is a quite remarkable addition to The Secret Life of ... series. Two others deal with boogers and boo-boos.                                                                            

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Full Moon, written and illustrated by Camilla Pintonato. Princeton Architectural Press, Raincoast. 2021. $24.95 ages 4 and up


"In their secret workshop, the rabbits 
are very busy. 
What are they making? 

Eagerly waiting for the moon to rise."

Do young children like to imagine what nocturnal animals are doing at night? I think they might. After all, much of what happens during the time they are in bed is unknown to them. It is lovely to think about what might be happening outside while they are dreaming the night away. Or, are they fearful about all of it? 

Camilla Pintonato is here to ease their fears, and tell them a charming story of five rabbits that wait for the sun to set before their nighttime adventure can begin. As soon as they are sure it is dark, they begin a trek that has a mysterious bent. They all carry orange backpacks. Inside each is a bunch of blue fluff. Soon, their underground workshop shows them busily working at 'something'. 

Their wait now is for moonrise. They continue their work, we are told, in preparation for a celebration. Cut cards are blue with white circles and the words full moon printed on them. They fill up yellow bags and head back through their tunnel to the forest floor where they invite birds, mice, a fox, and a multitude of other animals to join them in a run to await a big surprise. Birdsong accompanies the release of the constructed lanterns into the night sky. 

"Before their eyes, the full moon shines bright. 
The paper lanterns sparkle like stars.

The text is minimal, the illustrations are quiet and lovely, and the effect for young readers is magical. Perhaps some will join the rabbits when the next full moon rises into the night sky.                                                                                      

Friday, September 17, 2021

Over and Under the Canyon, written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2021. $24.99 ages 5 and up


"Down in the sand, harvester ants hide in 
their home - a cool escape from the sun. 

My stomach grumbles as we hike back to 
camp. I'm not the only one. A desert kit fox
wakes to hunt, and cottontails graze in a 
clearing as sunset paints the sky orange.

For readers who have never experienced the beauty of a desert canyon, this book will introduce them to its many wonders. The sun is relentless, quickly baking any wet spots into hardened earth. Finding shelter in the shady spots offers a place for numerous animals to live: bighorn sheep, roadrunners, geckos, kangaroo rats, tarantulas, jackrabbits, horned lizards, and a red diamond rattlesnake. Many birds find food there as they soar above the canyon on the lookout for any movement below. 

"The roadrunner takes one long-legged
step. Then another. I hold my breath
and wait for the snake to strike. Then ... 


The roadrunner catches its head in her 
beak. She devours her rattlesnake lunch
while we munch on raisins and nuts.

As the mother and her son continue their exploration and make their return to the canyon's rim, they discover the beauty of desert wildflowers and peaceful quiet. They continue to take note of the many other animals who live in the desert ecosystem. Back at camp, the sun is setting, the air is cooling, and Dad's supper offers sustenance for two happy adventurers. In the darkness, they hear new sounds and catch sight of night creatures whose busy time is just beginning as the family takes shelter in their tent for a much-appreciated sleep.

This is the sixth collaboration for Ms. Messner and Christopher Silas Neal. Familiar to fans, exceptional mixed media illustrations capture both the heat and cool of the canyon, while also allowing readers to have a clear look at the variety in life as it is lived in this extraordinary environment. 

Well-researched, accurately illustrated, this new addition to an amazing series is exactly what is needed in libraries and classrooms to inform and interest young readers. An author's note, and a set of instructive paragraphs about the animals and plants mentioned are welcome. A further reading list includes both books and websites.  

The Over and Under series offers readers a chance to learn more about snow, the garden, dirt, the pond, and the rainforest. Don't miss them!                                                                                        

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Butterfly for a King; Saving Hawai'i's Kamehameha Butterflies, written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore with collages by Susan L. Roth. Lee & Low Books, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2021. $29.95 ages 8 and up


"The butterfly landed ... 

and years sped by. 

The comet blazed ... 

and a king was born."

The story begins with the 'big bang' and the formation of the Hawaiian Islands. Over time, plants were blown to the islands, providing a home for insects that included the Kamehameha Butterfly. Found only in Hawai'i, the butterfly became part of the collective history of the islands. 

The authors move the story forward to 2009, when school students decided it should be made the official state insect. They had a real concern; the number of butterflies was decreasing. By making it the state's insect, there was a chance to benefit from its presence and its value to Hawai'i. 

"Animals and insects that had been brought 
to the islands from other places were destroying 
them. There weren't as many of the plants the 
butterflies needed to live as there used to be.

It was enough to get many involved in a project with scientists to find where the butterflies could be found, and to gather critical information about them. Citizen scientists spent time searching for and learning about the butterfly and its life cycle, while the project's scientists were breeding new ones in an insect lab. By 2017, all the students had hoped for had happened. Ninety-four butterflies were released on O'ahu, while thousands of other releases followed. The work continues today. 

The text is presented on two levels; one tells a poetic story, and paragraphs at the bottom of each spread add more details. An afterword provides further important information, and is accompanied by clear, colorful photographs. The collages are textured, colorful and distinctive.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Paper Boat: A Refugee Story, written and illustrated by Thao Lam. Owlkids Books, 2020. $19.95 ages 6 and up


Readers will be enchanted by this 
remarkable wordless picture book, 
and its powerful themes of sacrifice,
survival, and - above all else - family. 

An author's note explains that this refugee story is inspired by Thao Lam's own history, and her family's flight to safety in Canada. It begins in a home in Vietnam as a family sits down to an evening meal. Bothered by the ants that also occupy a space at the table, the adults want them gone; a little girl does her best to save them from drowning in the watery sugar bowl. 

When the soldiers and tanks come near, the family knows they must quickly flee. Mother and child are separated from the rest, and must find their way to the boat that will transport them to a better place. As they hide, the mother creates an origami paper boat to keep her daughter occupied and calm. In the moonlight, the two follow a line of ants that leads them where the escape boat is waiting. 

From there, the story becomes a story of the ants aboard the paper boat, experiencing all of the trauma of the perilous journey being made by the refugees themselves. Not all survive. The refugees find asylum. The final scene brings the story full circle. The family has arrived to live in a new and vibrant community where many other refugee families live. Now safe and settled, they share a splendid family meal once again. It is no surprise that one ant has found its way to their table. 

It is almost impossible to fully describe the exceptional cut-paper collage artwork that gives 'voice' to this beautifully told wordless tale. Telling endpapers capture attention and lead readers to carefully consider the ever-changing scenes and perspectives at every turn of the page. The tale switches from happy family scenes to harrowing, suspenseful events that speak of bravery and resilience. Careful use of color and mood moves from warm family gatherings to the cold darkness of the escape and agonizing journey, and back to the warmth of their new home.  


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

See Where We Come From!: A First Book About Family Heritage, written and illustrated by Scot Ritchie. Kids Can Press, 2021. $17.99 ages 5 and up


"Martin can't wait for his friends
to meet his cousin. She can tell 
them all about what it's like to 
live in Japan. The friends are 
going to walk to the festival 
together, and Martin and Taeko's 
first stop will be Sally's house."

In this ninth book in the Exploring Our Community series, Scot Ritchie helps young readers begin to understand the concept of family heritage. The five friends involved will be recognized by children who have read the earlier books. After learning about mapping, buildings, homes, food, movement, bees, plastics, and mindfulness, this book focuses on the customs and traditions of people who come from various world communities. 

The group is helping to host a Heritage Festival, meant for others to see what is important to the families who attend their school. Each member of the group of five has a different heritage: Martin's mom is from Japan and his dad is from India, Sally is Haida, Pedro is from Brazil, Yulee is from Egypt, and Nick's family comes from Scandinavia. So much to share for all of them! 

Mr. Ritchie introduces each child's family as they prepare for their visit to the festival. In that way, readers learn something about each of them: music, food, crafting, sports, a family tree, family photos, and the stories and traditions they have to share. At show-and-tell, they are invited to put their own special things on a table, and then tell visitors about them and why they hold such importance. 

In the end, the author suggests making a heritage box that will help to tell each reader's own personal story. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

When Grandfather Flew, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Chris Sheban. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2021. $ 24.99 ages 4 and up


"I love their songs
and the way they fly. 
The brisk wingbeat of 
the sharp-shinned hawk, 
the hovering kestrel, 
and my favorite bird of all, 
the high-soaring 
bald eagle."

Ever since I read Sarah Plain and Tall in 1986, I have collected the wondrous family stories that Patricia MacLachlan continues to write. She has such a gift for tugging at heartstrings with characters driven by love and empathy for others. 

In this newest book, we meet Grandfather whose love of watching birds is an inspiration to his grandchildren. Grandfather provides binoculars to his two older grandchildren so that they can learn to loves birds, too. Emma is the narrator of this fine story; she notes that younger brother Milo is a quiet child who spends his time listening to what his grandfather has to teach, and seeing exactly what his grandfather sees. 

"Milo was a listener, He heard how 
Grandfather loved the look of birds, 
their beaks and wings.

Milo and Grandfather are witness to a chickadee hurting itself when it flies into a window. Together, they care for the tiny bird until it is rehabilitated and ready to fly again. As the old man loses his sight, he counts on both Milo and his nurse to help him by describing the birds at the feeder, and listening to their songs. 

On the day Grandfather dies, Milo calls the family outside to see the bald eagle that slowly comes closer as they watch. Quiet Milo realizes the importance of the moment. 

"Grandfather got his wish!!" called Milo. 
"He sees the sky. 
He sees the world. 
He sees us! 
Grandfather flies!"

Phenomenal storytelling, once again. Filled with the gentle kindness and family love that so often defines her stories, this is a book to be savored and shared. Using watercolor, pastel and graphite, Chris Sheban perfectly matches the beauty of its message, and the wonder of the setting where birds soar high for all to see. The birds are wondrous! 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Little Bat in Night School, written and illustrated by Brian Lies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2021. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"Little Bat and Ophelia stuck together. 
Ms. C. taught them to sing "The Seals 
on the Bus." They talked about the 
patterns the stars make and why the 
moon changes shape. 

Then it was time for show-and-tell."

The first day of school can be tough, as can the first night! Little Bat is so excited about this new adventure. He has everything he needs, and finds waiting very hard. When Mama Bat drops him off, he is surprised at the size of the school, at the night animals who are not as friendly as he had hoped, and he finds himself wanting to hide.   

So, too, does Ophelia. She is an opossum looking for a friendly face. Having a friend makes all the difference; the night gets better. They spend their time together playing, learning, getting along with the other night students, even listening to Mrs. C's story which is brought to a quick finish with the rising of the sun. No worry, the story will wait until the second night of school. 

There is such fun in the extraordinary art that allows readers to get to know the characters, to see how they interact with each other, and to watch as they find endless activities to keep them busy and always learning. It is not a perfect first night; it is a realistic look at the way children respond to new situations and gives those who are a bit apprehensive about the early days of a new year confidence to see what can happen. The details are telling, the dialogue is often humorous, and the ingenious play will bring much joy to readers. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Survivor Tree, written by Marcie Colleen and illustrated by Aaron Becker. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2021. $23.99 ages


"One September day, 
the perfect blue sky exploded. 

Under the blackened remains, 
the tree lay crushed and burned. 

Workers dug through the wreckage
and discovered unexpected green.

Before that catastrophic September day we now call 9/11, a small tree grew for thirty years in its place near the tall steel buildings, marking the change of seasons without much attention from passers-by. When the planes hit and the towers fell, the tree lay crushed and buried until someone found it. In the aftermath, it was replanted elsewhere. It did not flourish for years. Its gnarled branches became home to birds, and the tree began to grow once more. It took ten years. 

Finally, it was returned to its former home, and an entirely different landscape. Today, visitors stop and cry for those lives lost; and they pay attention to the beautiful tree for the first time. 

"Fingers traced the timeline. 

Warm palms pressed the old wound, 
the bark joining the past to the present.

Marcie Colleen's book is based on a real tree that stands tall today where the twin towers once stood. Her admiration for its survival is evident in the calm, elegant way she chooses to tell its story. Aaron Becker's New York setting and stunning illustrations tell the tree's story with sun-filled images and incredible detail; they also tell another story of a family who loved that tree before the collapse, and continue to love it after its return. There it remains a symbol of hope for all visitors. 

A closing note about the tree offers further information, and is accompanied by notes from both author and artist. On this 20th anniversary since the towers fell, Survivor Tree offers understanding for the resilience that is part of all healing.                                                                                     

Friday, September 10, 2021

How To Wear a Sari, written by Darshana Khiani and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. Versify, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast, 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Hmm ... 
something's missing. 

Put the sari blouse and petticoat on first. 

A little long. 

Make some adjustments.

And they said you were too small. Silly adults."

According to the young girl narrator of this heartwarming book, the only way to be treated as someone much older than you are is to dress as if you were an adult. In this case, that means wearing a sari. Thus begins a lesson in that particular art. 

Finding the perfect fabric may take some time, but the search will be worth it. First attempts at getting it right fall short of ideal. Persistance pays off. After many tries to get it just right, the transformation is complete. With the sari wrapped, tucked and completed with the extra fabric tossed over a shoulder and tacked with a glittery broach, the last task is to find jewelry, and sparkly sandals. Success is sure to be found with family in the grand finale. 

"Go show them your glamorous grown-up look. 
Remember not to run.

OOPS! Not to worry, it is a fine achievement, and worthy of adding to other family blunders in the Hall of Fame album! 

Digitally drawn and colored illustrations add to the hilarity of this first attempt at grown-up dressing. The color palette is pleasing, the fun evident, and the warmth much appreciated for all little ones tired of being 'treated like a little kid'. The book will certainly elicit giggles as it is shared. It offers solace for those whose bumbling attmepts at trying something new learn they are not the only ones who don't get it right the first time.                                                                                     

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Bird Boy, written by Matthew Burgess and illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani. Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Nico knew when someone 
was making fun of him - 
and yes, it hurt his feelings. 


he turned the name over in his mind
       a few times
and smiled.

It's hard for Nico to walk into the classroom, knowing that he is someone from the outside - the new kid. He isn't sure what to do while others are huddling together or playing sports. It doesn't take him long to find 'other' things to do. 

He watches insects doing their work; he sits quietly in the grass while the sun warms his face; and he welcomes any bird that wants to join him. He attracts many and earns himself a nickname - Bird Boy. While it hurts his feelings in the beginning, he soon realizes that he quite likes it. The name allows his imagination to take flight and provide peace and contentment.  

"He became a hummingbird 
amid the nectar-filled 

a pelican with wide-open wings, 
cruising the edge of the coastline ...

It takes a wee while before Nico has one friend. Then, more and more of them as they bask in the kindness he so willingly shares. 

This tender story will be much appreciated by those new kids who don't feel a part of the usual happenings in an early years classroom. Nico's peaceful presence is soon felt by those around him, and shows apprehensive children that being yourself is the best way forward. 

Shahrzad Maydani's colored pencil, graphite, and watercolor artwork perfectly matches the text. White space allows a clear look at Nico's early days when he is alone and extremely quiet. As his imagination soars, the spreads are filled with warmth in the soft colors and gentle movements within Nico's world. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The New Kid Has Fleas, written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Eda Kaban. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2021. $25.99 ages 5 and up


"I wonder who'll choose the New Kid
to be their Science project buddy.
I already chose Stewart. 
And Stewart already chose me. 

But our teacher says today the bowl will choose. 
(We hate it when the bowl chooses.)
Stewart gets paired with ...

Being the New Kid in school is never easy. The boy who narrates this heartfelt, humorous tale is one of the 'old' kids who are just not sure about that new kid. He observes her in the hallway and the classroom, noting some very different behaviors. She never wears shoes, she leaps after the basketball in gym, she howls in music class, and she chases squirrels during their lunch break. She doesn't seem to care if people don't talk to her. Or does she? 

When the two are paired to work on a science project, it is made clear that the new kid has a very different family life than his. A visit to her home shows she is being raised by wolves, who welcome him and treat him with respect and kindness. He likes her, and notes that she does not have even one flea ... a clear rejection of mean Molly's spiteful remark. 

Eda Kaban's art is painted digitally and offers lively observations of school life and the kids who live it. Her illustrations cleverly match the tone of the tale, and provide some very funny moments. The endpapers are a delight! 


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

What I Am, written and illustrated by Divya Srinivasan. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"I am dark. 
I am pale.

In summer, 
I'm different colors. 

I like to look at animals, 
but I am nervous around animals."

Our children need to know they are not defined by one attribute; rather, many. When the young Indian American girl who narrates this book is asked, "What are you?", she thinks deeply before answering the question. In doing so, she makes many significant observations about herself. 

She begins with being human, and moves on to talk about her place in family: a daughter, a granddaughter, even a mother to her 'stuffies'. As the book moves forward, she talks about eating habits, skin color, fears, feelings, interests, and so on. She is not always the same. 

"I have so much. 
I don't have enough. 

I am selfish. 
I am generous. 

I am mean. 
I am kind.

Ms. Srinivasan wrote this book based on a real scenario that included her sister who was asked the question by a rude woman in a restroom, and was quick to realize the question was about race ... obviously an insult. The scene stayed with her sister and was soon a topic of conversation between the two. The book itself begs the question of all of us, "How would you respond?" In sharing the answers with our children, we offer opportunities for them to think critically about all those things that make them who they are. We all have multiple identities; it is important to consider each one of them. The longer the question is considered, the more opportunity to think on what makes us who we are. This book is a celebration of that. 

The author's note is worthy of your attention. 

We are all more than we can say. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

The Secret Life of the Sloth, written by Laurence Pringle and illustrated by Kate Garchinsky. Boyds Mill Press, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 5 and up


"One day Perezoso's camouflage saves her life. 
A harpy eagle flies through the forest. It zooms 
between the understory and the canopy. With its
sharp vision, it looks above and below for prey
hunting for monkeys and sloths. Twice the eagle 
swoops near Perezoso. Twice it doesn't see her.

Children will enjoy the way Laurence Pringle makes his information book about sloths and the rainforest more personal by naming his sloth Perezoso, and telling her story. It is an affectionate account of a brown-throated, three-fingered sloth and the days she spends living her life. 

Interested readers learn that she is a swimmer, comfortable in water. Her movement on land is much more difficult because she moves along the ground by pulling herself with her front arms. Once she is in the trees, she is able to maneuver skillfully. As the story follows her through her days, much is learned about the forest itself. 

Eating habits, movement, predators, birth and baby care, and daily rituals are clearly explained in accessible and descriptive text. There is drama in the moments predators threaten, as readers are fully aware of how vulnerable Perezoso is when not in the safety of the trees. 

"Three-toed sloths are different. 
It is Perezoso who leaves. Her son 
stays where he grew up. She will 
live in another part of her home 
range. They touch and smell each 
other one last time.

The art is done using crayon and pastel; it gives readers a strong sense of place and a close-up look at the perpetual smile worn by these slow-moving tree dwellers. In back matter, the author provides a relevant section called More About Sloths which is quite fascinating.                                                                              

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sonata for Fish and Boy, by Milan Pavlovic. Groundwood, 2021. $18.95 ages 3 and up


"Where does the music
take you?

There is no text; there is plenty of story. A boy and a fish take readers on a journey of musical discovery. The fish is encouraged to come to the water's surface by the sound of the boy's violin. As he plays, the fish listens. The endless practicing takes a toll, and the boy falls into a dreamy sleep. 

As he sleeps, the fish jumps from the water and leads him through the sky, over the town where they see musicians playing, people dancing, they jump from planet to planet ... all in a wondrous journey. The watercolor artwork draws attention from spread to spread as new color saturates each lovely part of the dream. The boy and the fish don't change as they move forward, while the landscapes they travel over do. Only as the dream comes to an end, do they travel back to their starting point. There, an old man steps forward to sit beside the abandoned violin and begin to play. The fish, entranced once again by the lure of the music, leaps from the water into the arms of the man, bringing their story to a close. 

This quiet, peaceful book will be appreciated for its storytelling, despite the absence of words. This is a time when no words are needed. From soft blues and grays, through bright, colorful landscapes, and back to the reality of the waterfront bench, readers can appreciate the power that music has to transform. Here, it is the guide for a cheerful bit of wondrous travel.                                                                                


Saturday, September 4, 2021

My Tiny Life by Ruby T. Hummingbird, written and illustrated Paul Meisel. Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up



I'm hearing a lot of 
chatter about a big 
trip soon. 


Eating lots of bugs and
drinking lots of nectar.
Getting ready for the 
big trip.

In this fourth book in the Nature Diary series, young readers learn about the first full year in the life of a ruby-throated hummingbird. As he has done in the other books, Paul Meisel writes in first person, thus making the observations and events more real to those reading it.  

These hummingbirds are familiar sights for many. They live in various parts of North America in the summer, and winter in Mexico and Central America. From the front endpapers where the author includes a monthly map showing the habitat of hummingbirds as well as extra factual information, to the back endpapers where he further describes their many habits and characteristics,Mr. Meisel ensures that readers know much about the bird whose diary they are about to read. 

Now, informed readers are ready to share the dated entries in short sentences made by the hummingbird itself. Every accurately detailed image, created using watercolor, acrylic and gouache, adds context to the personal journey presented. Many relevant details are included in organized, well-designed pages which will attract and fully inform keen birdwatchers. 

Back matter includes a glossary, sources and recommended reading, both periodical and websites. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

Have You Ever Seen A Flower? Written and illustrated by Shawn Harris. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2021. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"Have you ever 
seen a flower 
using nothing 
but your nose? 

Breathe deep ... 

what do you see?"

Leaving a dull and colorless city, a young girl and her dog head out on the road. They are in a search for the beauty to be found in a rural landscape. The further they go, the more color they find. Stopping at a field of flowers, the two run straight into the midst of them, drinking in the beauty they find there. As they explore with abandon and by using the senses, they discover much about flowers. 

"Have you ever seen 
a flower so deep 
you had to shout


and listen for an echo
just to know
how deep it goes? 

By focusing on the life to be found in flowers, the child discovers that life inside herself. Just as plants need water and sunshine to grow, so do children. The colored-pencil illustrations create beauty in the world through use of strong color that blankets each of the spreads. Designed with careful thought, it is a book meant to be savored and explored slowly. Connecting child to nature through imagination and wonder, each spread offers joy and hope. Readers are invited to think deeply on the connections made. What joy can be found in a flower!


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Mornings With Monet, written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary Grandpre. Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages


"He led a band of rebel artists then: Renoir, Degas, 
Pissarro, Sisley, Morisot. 

Rejected for using bright colors, tangled
brushstrokes; condemned for their impressions. 

Now art dealers and collectors wait to see as
Monet sees. Monet waits only for the light.

Barb Rosenstock has described for me, and many others, some outstanding artists: Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Chagall, and now Claude Monet. With her equally talented collaborator, Mary Grandpre, the books they produce are fine examples of just how informative and appealing it can be to learn about artists and their work. 

Here, they imagine a morning that may have been spent by Mr. Monet, an impressionist painter widely admired. He begins in the middle of the night for most of us (3:30 am). He walks down to the river where a boat, and an assistant joins him in a row boat that takes them to the flat-bottomed boat where he will work. The helper takes fourteen paintings from their wrapper and places them in order from dark to light. The boat is Monet's studio and he has come to paint. He makes all preparations for his day's work ... and gets to it. 

"Painting the river's colors, and the air 
around the colors. Monet wipes his brow; 
it is not easy to paint air.

He works until the morning light is no longer right, and then moves on to the next painting. When he is done, he returns home. He does everything for his art, always wanting to keep it private. It is work ... 'it is MAGIC!' His story is passionately told; his talent with light on full display as shown on every page in gorgeous acrylic and ink artwork. 

In back matter, an author's note extends the learning, and a list of resources is added.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Butterflies Are Pretty GROSS! Written by Rosemary Mosco and illustrated by Jacob Souva. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"Yes, butterflies are beautiful. 
Is that all you wanted to know about 
butterflies? Great! Then ... 


Close this book. 
You're done. The story's over.
Nothing to see here.

The butterfly is the narrator here, and quick to let readers know what everyone already knows about them. Butterflies are pretty; their flutter, their wings, their poses, and their many colors! However, that is not all that butterflies are. Before moving on, readers are warned not to turn the page. You know what happens next, don't you? 

Surprise at not listening to the warning is one thing. What is next shared is an explanation for just how gross butterflies truly are. They eat rotten food and dead animals. What? There's more. Some have little color, make a lot of noise, and there's even more that. The narrator provides ample opportunity to stop reading if the reader is bothered by the information being presented. You can be pretty sure that every young reader will be keen to carry on. If not, they would not know: 

"Some butterflies eat poop. 

They snack on salt and other
tasty stuff from big piles of 
animal dung.

Jacob Souva creates digital artwork that fully complements the tone of the text. An earthy palette, and images of a variety of butterflies will engage and entertain young readers. The final spread shows a thumbnail sketch of each of the featured butterflies, with a few other pertinent facts, and their geographic range.