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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness, written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Pete Oswald. Harper, 2022. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"Like a dog, feel what you're feeling: 

Bark if you're worried. 

Growl if you're angry. 

Yowl is you're sad. 

Sing if you're happy. 

And if you're really happy, 
wag your whole body ...

Who better to teach a lesson in mindfulness than a beloved dog and its young owner? Dogs live in the now, and can certainly teach important lessons if we just pay attention. Lessons like stretching upon waking, wagging the whole body for whatever the reason, and loving unconditionally. There are many things to be aware of as you watch your dog throughout the day. 

This pup is a very appealing one and has all it takes to help teach lessons in ways that make the day better. As the hours pass and seasons change, the two have many experiences that encourage careful consideration for the way things are handled. The author provides many instances when being together makes all the difference, and offers abundant reminders to deal with those events with careful thought and honest emotions. 

Pete Oswald creates appealing digital images, using cut paper and scanning in watercolors.  The final two spreads give advice for taking mindful nature walks with friends through the seasons, as well as  suggestions for  seeing, feeling, and tasting like a dog. Information framed on wooden stakes along the path offer further learning. Finally, a Mindful Breathing Exercise is suggested.  

Those who love dogs will especially appreciate this.  

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Tide Pool Waits, written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Amy Hevron. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"The barnacles open their shells and 
sweep in food with their feathery feet, 
Time to eat. 

The sea star creeps across the rocks.
Time to hunt. 

The octopus glides to the surface. 
Time to return to the open sea.

A funny thing happened one day last week. My granddaughter and her kindergarten classmates went on a field trip to Sooke Bluffs Park where they found crabs galore. Some were on the sand, some under rocks, and some in the tide pools created there. When I told her that I had received this new book that very day she was pretty pumped. She also thought she would like to have a copy if I could send it, please. Her birthday is only a month away. The book list is begun! 

All along the Pacific coast, beach explorers are sure to come upon these tide pools. I appreciate that the design of the book begins before children see the title page:

"The waves ... 

           C - R- A - A - A- A- SH

And then ... cr -e - e - e - e - p

                            Swish, gurgle, trickle, 
                            drip - drip - drop. 

Seawater collects
between the rocks. 
And quiet settles 
over the shore. 

                   And ... 

The Tide Pool Waits."

What a splendid invitation for this informative book for young readers! From the start they know what happens to create a tide pool, and are ready to learn more about who waits for the ocean waves to return after the tide moves out. 

Ms. Fleming names many of the creatures found there in descriptive and apt language. The sun warms the pool and the sand when the tide is out, and many living things must find safe places to wait for the waves to return.Then, they can go about doing what is natural to them. There is action everywhere ... until the water recedes and the tide pool waits once more. 

Amy Hevron uses acrylic paint and pencil artwork to add context to the ocean environment. Her colorful images are filled with marine animals and their hiding places at high tide, and the slowly receding waters as the tide goes out. 

Backmatter includes An Illustrated Guide to This Tide Pool, showcasing the animals from the book. Also included are places that offer ways to explore the tide pools, and a cross-section that shows exactly where the various creatures live in the high, middle, and low tide zones.                                                                                   

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Surviving the Wild: Rainbow the Koala, by Remy Lai. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $18.99 ages 6 and up

"I'm sorry, Mom. 
I'm not strong enough 
to be on my own. 


It's just sitting there. 

Be careful. Don't get 
too close to it,

Where am I? 
What happened

The above exchange happens when Rainbow, a young koala fleeing the parched bush in need of water slipped into a swimming pool. Rainbow was drowning, and is luckily saved by a young girl and her father. This was not the end of Rainbow's quest for safety. Fearing humans, Rainbow flees and finds solace in a nearby tall tree. 

This is the first of two new graphic novels by Remy Lai that deal with wildlife and survival in the face of climate change and the dangers it has unleashed around the world. This novel lets readers see  Rainbow's first year with his mother learning how to survive in the wild. Too soon, he is sent off to find his own way in the world. It is a challenge, and Rainbow faces many obstacles. He finds a tree to call his own, but has great difficulty finding the water needed to ensure survival. The bush is tinder-dry. 

The scenario in the swimming pool and his ascent into the nearest tree results in messages from passing birds that an approaching fire is huge and heading their way. This is his first hint at real danger. What he learned from his mother is to find the highest tree when danger threatens; it is what he does. Birds continue to issue warnings. Naively, he considers himself safe until ... 

The fire rages, Rainbow hangs on. When he finally crawls down to the ground, he burns his paws and appears to succumb to the ravages of the fire. Luckily, a detection dog finds him and he is transported to safety and healing. After six months, he is returned to a recovering forest and a new start. 

In back matter, the author shares that Rainbow's story is based on an actual happening. I really appreciate that Australian animals (kangaroo, echidna, detector dog) are the ones to convey the events. Final spreads add information about koalas, the eucalyptus trees that provide a home, and the ways readers can help to stem climate change. 

"In 2019-2020, bushfires burned down many forests in Australia.
More than one billion animals, not counting insects, were lost."

That is a sobering thought for all.      

Next up for Ms. Lai is Star the Elephant. I will be watching for it.                                                                              

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

How to High Tea with a Hyena (And Not Get Eaten), written by Rachel Poliquin and illustrated by Kathryn Durst. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2022. $16.99 ages

"We'll meet her in the conservatory.

I set everything out earlier. 
I made ham triangles, deviled eggs, 
cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon rolls, 
my FAMOUS cream buns ... 

What a MESS!

Turns out a hyena isn't dainty at all. The high tea set for mutual enjoyment is ruined by two things - starting before guests arrive and standing on the table. Something must be done! 

This is the second book in the aptly-named A POLITE PREDATORS BOOK series. I have great admiration for Rachel Poliquin's innate humor and her passion for research. She fuses the two in books that attract young fans and captivate those who share her books with them. Kathryn Durst creates art that absolutely complements Rachel's words and humor.  

A cockroach named Celeste acts as a guide in helping a young girl (you, the reader) for a teachable moment. So long as the reader follows the advice given, all should be well. After all, this cockroach is a survivalist and very classy. Celeste starts out describing a hyena named Ruby. Admittedly, trying to have tea with a wild animal can be tricky. Celeste is fascinated by bad ideas, and sets out to find a way for the two to have a successful meal together. 

Described in a series of nine steps, each filled with plenty of fascinating information about the hyena, and descriptions of the preparations for hosting high tea. Some of the suggestions for accommodating a wild animal of Ruby's ilk can be downright dangerous, others are funny and often ridiculous. All are engaging and very entertaining. Kids will be fascinated and perhaps even frightened at times. They will learn a lot about the hyena, as well as the etiquette for hosting a tea party. It's all great fun! 

In the pages of her Encyclopedia of Dangers and Perils, Celeste makes an unsettling discovery: 

"Let me see, let me see ... 

Hurricane ... 

            Hydrogen bomb ... 

                    Ah, here we go, 


Hyenas love meaty dinners 
but also eat fruits, eggs, 
fish, snakes and ... 



Before she signs off, Ms. Poliquin teases readers with a suggestion that this is not the last in this unique and inviting series .... whoop! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Baby Alligator written by Aubrey Lang with photographs by Wayne Lynch. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2022. $7.95 ages 5 and up

"An alligator is a powerful and 
graceful swimmer. The female's 
strong, flat tail moves like a 
snake from side to side and 
pushes her through the water
very quickly and quietly.

I cannot tell you how happy I am to see these new additions to the Nature Babies series. While I was still teaching and working as a teacher-librarian, I used them in classroom studies and as suggested nonfiction for the kids in our K-5 school. 

This wife and husband team do a superb job of bringing nature and its many inhabitants to young readers. The writing is straightforward and very informative, telling readers a clear story of the first months in the life of many young creatures. They are geared toward 5-8-year olds with clear, contextual photographs. Readers learn about habitat, diet, parenting, predators, the hunt for food and the search for safety. The focus onone species at a time proves very valuable.  

Each book offers a Did You Know page of further facts and an index to help readers return to their favorite pages.  

During a quick search I found a list of 26 other titles. I am not sure if they are all in print, but they are worthy of your attention.                                                                             
And here is the second of the newest ones: 

"Once the second chick hatches, 
she joins her sister on the water. 
The parents lead them to a shallow
area of the lake where they catch
water insects to feed the small 
chicks. The baby loons copy
everything their parents do.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Amah Faraway, written by Margaret Chiu Greanias and illustrated by Tracy Subisak. Bloomsbury, Raincoast. 2022. $25.99 ages 4 and up


"Amah brought them to 
the parks 
she enjoyed. 

Kylie eyed Amah sideways. 

Amah took them shopping 
at the night market - where 
she seemed to try and buy 

A trip from San Francisco to Taipei with her mother is anxiety-enducing for Kylie. The purpose of the visit is to spend time with her Amah, which has never happened. Kylie's mother is very excited, sharing ideas for what they will do while they are there. 

It is not that Kylie doesn't know her grandmother. They connect weekly by computer - telling stories, singing songs, and showing snacks they might share. Will a real-life visit be okay? Once they arrive, Kylie remains nervous. It is a bit difficult to understand what Amah says, and everything about Amah's apartment is new and very different. A huge family dinner with many relatives and much food does little to make her feel more comfortable. 

Amah shows them the city she loves: the parks, the foods, the playgrounds, the market, and the hot springs. Amah encourages Kylie to join her in the water. What a change for Kylie. From then on, Kylie wants to be the leader for every new adventure. She begins to recognize some words in Taiwanese. She  loves everything about being with Amah. As often happens when it's time to return home, Kylie is reticent. She likes being with Amah, and now they must leave. They continue to connect by computer on Saturdays - much more enjoyable after the in-person visit. She will see Amah again - this time in San Francisco! 

This is a happy story, written to reflect the changes that happen when a granddaughter visits a faraway grandmother she does not know well. The author's gentle words are complemented by clear images created with India ink, Japanese watercolor, pastel and colored pencil. The illustrations take readers to the heart of Taipei where the family learns much about the city, while also learning about each other. 

Back matter includes anecdotes from both author and illustrator, as well as information about Taipei sights and Taiwanese food.                                                                                          

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Treasure Box, written by Dave Keane and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell. G.P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Grandpa taps his watch 
and says it's time. 

We go for a walk to see if 
we can find any treasures. 

We collect things in his little blue hat. 
Grandpa finds a rusty spring and a 
doll's lost arm. I find a dirty marble
and cracked-open robin's egg.

The bond between this little girl and her grandfather is strong and loving. She starts her story by telling the reader that she is 'always on the lookout.' What she finds, she puts in a secret box she will share with her grandpa at his next visit. She waits in anticipation for Grandpa and Grammy to return. 

After tea and a chat, the two sneak away upstairs. Grandpa always has his magnifying glass to provide a close look at all that has been collected. They enjoy it enormously. Then, they are off on another of their treks for treasure. The walk takes time and patience. They both like it that way. 

Grandpa's poor health prevents a further visit. Her opportunity to spend time looking at the treasures holds memories of their happy moments together. Finally able to make a short visit to her grandparents, the little one shows the two new things she has added to the box. 

"He likes them so much,
he cries a little.

Their next visit is at the hospital where she doesn't get a real chance for a visit, as Grandpa is sleeping. She leaves a few treasures to him know she has been there. When Grandpa dies, she goes to the memorial with her parents and says 'goodbye to Grandpa in my heart'. It takes time to deal with the loss, and sadness keeps her from opening her treasure box. When Grammy comes to visit, she has some special gifts from Grandpa for her granddaughter. A new search can now begin. 

Sensitive in the telling, and gorgeously illustrated with art that was ''done with handmade textures and collaged digitally', this is a story that opens a door for discussion about the loss of a loved one. Having such memories of time spent together is perhaps the best treasure of all.                                                                                  

Saturday, April 23, 2022

We Are Better Together, written by Bill McKibben and illustrated by Stevie Lewis. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $25.99 ages 4 and up


"When we work together, 
we can do incredible things. 

We can harness the power of  
the sun. 

We can deforest the land.

We can help lost sea turtles
find their way to the ocean.

This is a perfectly-worded reminder to each and every one of us that all things are better when we do them together. I will admit that I thought going through a pandemic might help us see that very clearly. After all, we ARE all dealing with the same threats to our health and our lives. Instead, we have decided to be on one side or the other - and there is no acceptance of the other's point of view. Imagine what we are teaching our kids in a time of great strife.

Bill McKibben, a distinguished environmentalist and an advocate for unity, has written a book to remind our children that we all need to care about each other and the planet we call home. Our only chance to make things better will come from cooperation and a shared need to make a difference. 

"It is a beautiful, fragile place -
worthy of protection. 

We can accept with grace that each 
of us has a moment and a place.

That our humaness is 

Each page presents the wonders of our world in digitally created images. Filled with color and light, they offer young readers ways in which we can learn more, do more, be more in our communal attempts to make our world healthier and more sustainable. Racially diverse groups spread their love for doing better in the face of powerful and reckless decisions. Little ones will hear the message, older children may be spurred to action. It is a worthwhile message for all of us. 

In back matter, the author and illustrator provide context for their own journeys to wanting to do better to protect our planet by helping to solve the problems being faced every day.                                                                                    

Friday, April 22, 2022

Kitty, written and illustrated by rebecca jordan-glum. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $25.99 ages 3 and up

"When Granny 
wasn't looking, 

Kitty stole 
a cupcake. 

Granny was not pleased."

Oh, I wish my granddaughters were here to listen to this very funny story. They spent time before school one morning this week sitting at their front window watching two young raccoons climb up and down the cedar tree in their front yard. Because of that they would very much enjoy this story of mistaken identity. 

Granny seems the perfect person to leave in charge of a very special pet while the family must be away. Before leaving, an important note is left on the fridge, concerning care for their cat, Satsuki. Just as Granny is reading the note, the cat bolts, scaring Granny and knocking her glasses off. As luck would have it, the note floats off the fridge and straight into the cat's water dish. The smudges make it almost impossible to read; however. Granny can read the most important part of the message: Please don't let the cat out. 

Without her glasses, she looks out the window to see what she thinks is the cat, already outside. Oh, dear! She is able to coax the 'cat' back inside, while Satsuki scampers out the open door. 'Kitty" (really a raccoon) loves the attention given: plenty of cat food, cupcakes, a bath (meh), a good brushing, and the chance to make trouble all day long. 

Tired out, Granny heads to bed. Kitty isn't tired at all and spends the night (raccoons are nocturnal beings) causing major chaos (as is often the case with the little bandits). Granny awakens frazzled by her lack of sleep to find Kitty snoring on the sofa. Still without her glasses, she is unaware of the mess that welcomes the family home. Her glasses are found, and Granny is out the door. The final page is a hoot! 

A tale told with great humor and meant to entertain all who read it, it will be read time and again. The acrylic, watercolor, and pencil artwork encourages giggles at every turn. There is a lot to see and discuss as the story is shared.                                                                                         


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Hustle Bustle BUGS, words by Catherine Bailey and pictures by Lauren Eldridge. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2022. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"In a field, beetles toil, 
rolling poo (ew!), mixing soil.

Ladybugs on patrol. 
Polka-dot pest control.

Our bugs are busy wondering what's up in the middle of Canada. For the third week in a row, we are in the path of a Colorado low that might drop even more snow and rain than we have already seen. It's been sunny the past few days, and the sun is hot - just enough incentive to make ants active and other bug believe that spring is HERE! Not yet, little critters. 

For kids who love bugs and long to be entomologists, there is a lot here to learn. The text is written in rhyming couplets that give descriptive small bits of information about each. On most spreads further text is printed on a small piece of notebook paper and taped to the bottom of the page. It includes material to inform young readers about the bugs and their many distinct characteristics. Each entry compares them to a human who works much as they do. 

"Spiders plan perfect traps 
with lacy nets that won't collapse. 

Like architects who design buildings, 
golden orb weaver spiders create 
strong and intricate webs, which 
they can then use to trap prey.

The author uses a strong and varied vocabulary to bump up the learning. It encourages young readers to try their hand at reading on their own. The colorful art will attract attention for the detailed scenes created using materials from the environment and making it look three-dimensional. Back matter contains two pages of Fun Buggy Facts and 'bug-tastic tidbits'. Lauren Eldridge offers a very clear note about creating her illustrations that is extremely informative and helpful.                                                                                       

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

on a Rainy Day, written and illustrated by Sarah LuAnn Perkins. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"After such a big sound, 
other sounds feel small. 

But ... 

we can make our own sounds, 
our own fun.

After a two-day blizzard, followed by a snowstorm that dumped another six inches of snow this week, we are all looking forward to spring, with its rainy days. The father and daughter who are the main characters in this book start their day outside. It doesn't last long. Raindrops soon force them to take shelter at home. 

It is an unanticipated interruption to their planned day together. Once inside, it's very hard to keep the spirits up. Watching the rain from the window only makes the little girl feels worse. Her father suggests playing video games. Those sounds are fun until they are interrupted by a crashing rumble from outside. Varying in size and intensity, the loud sounds have the two finding shelter in a blanket fort where Checkers and a flashlight make for some fun! As the storm slows, so do the sounds from the outdoors. Soon enough, the two return to the wet outdoors where they can now create their own sounds. 

There is no talk between the two. An unseen narrator tells the story filled with onomatopoeia that makes for a great read. It will be fun to let kids decide how the sounds should be made, making it a story that will be asked for on numerous occasions. Oh. what fun a rainy day can be! 

Bring it on, Spring. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Waiting for Mama, written and illustrated by Gianna Marino. Viking, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"I hear PEEPS and SQUEAKS from
the eggs on the feet of other papas. 

We are all waiting for our
mamas to come home. 

Papa misses Mama. 
Just like I do. 

This is a charming lesson for little ones concerning the care and nurturing of penguin eggs and chicks. The egg is cold, and the chick inside is aware of what is going on outside its safe shell. He recognizes his mother's call, as it is nothing like the others. Before the egg hatches, Mama begins a long walk for food. 

All the mamas leave together, trusting the papas who are in charge of the soon-to-be-born chicks. Papa protects the egg under the warmth of his belly. The eggs begin to show signs of hatching. They are all waiting for the mamas to return. The papas protect each other when the temperature drops and the winds blow. At times, the egg is unprotected. Nothing to worry about; Papa knows just what to do. 

The chick is anxious to meet his papa. Stretching, he cracks the egg shell. What a surprise to see how big Papa is. Other chicks are hatching, too. A loud commotion on the ice is the signal that the mamas are coming home. Soon, the family is reunited, with food and love. 

The illustrations are impressive. They match the spare text and beauty of the setting, while also letting little ones see the family of penguins succeeding in a harsh environment.  A final note about the emperor penguin is useful. 

"After two months of feeding, the female penguin returns to feed her 
newly hatched chick. Her timely return is critical to the survival of the 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Where Is Bina Bear? Written and illustrated by Mike Curato. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2022. $25.99 ages 3 and up


"Bina. What are you doing? 

I am not Bina. 
I am ... groceries.

Are you okay?

I'm fine."

Tiny, a small white rabbit, has invited pal Bina Bear to a party. Bina has accepted the invitation, despite a real hesitation to being with so many people. Bina is a huge purple bear, hard to miss in any room. But Bina is missing when Tiny makes the rounds. Where can Bina be? 

It is very easy for young readers to find Bina in a dark room. At first she dons a shade and poses as a lamp. Tiny accepts that answer. Next, she disguises herself as a table topped with a bowl of fruit. Tiny asks for a banana and thanks Bina for it.  So it goes: Tiny finding Bina, and Bina pretending to be something that is not a bear. Tiny is always aware of Bina's whereabouts. When Bina pretends to be groceries, using a bag for a face mask, she begins to cry, Tiny consoles her Bina as any concerned friend would do.

"I don't like parties. 

Then why did you come? 

Because I like you. 

I like you, too."

As the party-goers come looking for them, Tiny is quick to prove just what a special friend she is. Shy kids are sure to see themselves in this story of friendship and acceptance. Would that they all find a Tiny to help them be honest when dealing with their feelings about crowds and noise. 

Mike Curato's mixed media artwork, using watercolor, colored pencil and ink, is a study in contrasts. Purples and yellows for darkness and light, a party setting on a white background, pastels for Tiny's house, and the size difference between Tiny and Bina. Take note of the bold red background when the two can hear the rest of the attendees getting close to find them. It shows real worry for what might happen next. There's plenty of empathy and gentle humor to attract young readers with an awareness for Bina's feelings and Tiny's strong friendship. 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Dog Says, Cat Says, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Sonia Sanchez. Dial Books, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Come on, let's do something. 
Let's have a wrestling match. 

Go ahead and try it and you'll 
see how well I scratch. 

I know that you won't hurt me
although you have sharp claws.

Can I say the same for you 
with those gigantic jaws?

I have heard it said that there is a big difference between having a cat in the house and having a dog. Marilyn Singer has both. She has a close-up view of the differences between the two. Our two narrators have contradictory takes on what makes the day a good one, starting first thing in the morning. Dog is up-and-at-em ready for the day to begin with a ball chase. Cat is warm and snuggly in bed and not prepared to get out of it yet ... or ever. 

Each turn of the page shows the feelings felt by their 'children'. Breakfast is served individually. Before they can get outside for some exercise, the dog exercises his lung power by barking at the mail carrier. The cat is unconcerned, knowing the carrier has never come inside. Then, it's full-out fun for the dog as it tears the parcel apart; the cat waits and then makes the box a home. Even a fly is handled from opposing views. 

"What's that flying by my nose? 
Wish that it would scram. 

It's so buzzy.
It's so fuzzy. 
Closer. Closer. 

Upon their return home from school, the style of welcome is contradictory. Kids who have pets will see recognize the differences in character, actions, and attitude. The various scenarios are humorous and familiar to pet owners. Marilyn Singer has captured their personalities with warmth and acceptance. Sonia Sanchez uses pencil artwork, colored using Photoshop to boost the humor in the dialogue. 

Readers and listeners will laugh out loud. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Who Loves Little Lemur, written by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by Jay Fleck. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2021. $25.99 ages 3 and up


"Grandma plucks Little Lemur's bugs
and squeezed him tight in furry hugs. 

Grandpa joins them. Together they sit, 
facing the sun, warming a bit.

This playful, rhyming book allows readers to see the love and comfort provided by every member of Little Lemur's family. It begins with Mama who 'nuzzles and nurses' him. Papa plays with him. Grandma and Grandpa wrap him securely in their love. 

Tugging his tail is how Sister shows her affection, even though she causes a tiny bit of pain which results in some wailing. Brother arrives quickly to soothe and wrestle with Little Lemur. Auntie encourages the troop to dance with him. Uncle shares his lunch. Cousins chase and tease until he is caught tentatively hanging from a high branch. Mama to the rescue! 

It is easy to see Little Lemur has captured the love and attention of every member of the family. At the end of a long day, the troop huddles protected from the rain. Lemur is quick to share his love with everyone gathered. 

Warm, expressive images create a setting a full day of action for this family love story. The final page provides a list of facts about lemurs. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Bobcat Prowling, written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Raoring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2022. $25.99 ages 5 and up

"This is Coyote's territory.
Yearling sprints, 
but Coyote is close behind. 
Yearling races up the red maple, 
dropping Pheasant. 

Coyote eats and waits, 
waits and eats.
But he's not as patient as Yearling ... 

Now napping under the stars."

This is a terrific companion to two earlier books, Coyote Moon and Hawk Rising. Mother Bobcat is anxious to send her young Yearling into the world, as she prepares to find a mate and raise a new batch of kittens. It's up to Yearling to find his own way now. 

His journey will not be short and simple. He must first get himself away from the other bobcats in his mother's range. His travel through a winter landscape is fraught with difficulties: wind, ice, seeking needed shelter, mounds of snow, and finding food. Snowshoe Hare looks perfect. Oops! This territory is claimed by Canada Lynx. The same scenario plays out again and again. 

Yearling is persistent, as he needs to be. By spring, Yearling is a Bobcat. His journey continues until he finds Old Bobcat, dead on the side of the road. This discovery leads to a new life for Bobcat. 

"Bobcat sniffs, rakes trees with its claws, 
scrapes soil, and sprays, 
marking his territory.

He hunts, rests, eats again. It has been a long adventurous route to finding a home. Doing so is what has kept him moving ever forward. 

Bobcat's story is told poetically, and makes for fascinating narrative nonfiction. Ms. Gianferrari has proven her knack for creating main characters that evoke empathy. Mr. Ibatoulline's magnificent watercolor artwork matches the text and makes Yearling's journey very real for readers. The cold of winter is apparent, the search for food disconcerting, the arrival of spring welcome, and the release found in finding his own space soothing - all shown in great detail in scenes full of action and emotion. 

Back matter contains three sections - All About Bobcats, How to Hunt Like a Bobcat and What's on the Menu. This welcome material is followed by a list for further reading and another of websites and videos available for further learning.                                                                                  

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Courage Hats, written by Kate Hoefler and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2022. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Mae wore a special hat
so a bear would think
she was just another bear. 

Bear wore a special hat 
so a person would think
he was just another person.

This lovely new book about friendship and imagination begins with the premise that 'not everyone loves a train.' Despite that, the time may come when a train is the only option. Mae, a very small girl, knows that trains go where bears are. Bears like to eat small things; Mae is small. Bear knows that trains go where people are. Small people like to eat big things; bear is big. 

In preparation for their first rides on a train, both Mae and Bear decide a new hat is what's needed to protect themselves. A bear hat for Mae and a person hat for Bear should keep both safe. It takes a bit of courage to believe in the power of those hats. It turns out that they are transformative. Each sits down beside the other, with some trepidation. After an initial greeting, Mae brings out her tea set, offering the grown-up beside her a cup. Though neither is comfortable about the train trip, it helps that Bear has a blanket and a snack to go with the tea.

The security of friendly camaraderie helps each see from a new perspective. Together the two can appreciate the quiet wonder that being on a train affords. 

"There was a lot to notice, too. 
Especially the big things they could have missed: 
How a train carries the sky on its back. 
How birds join it. 
How to make a friend 
who also thinks 
this feels like flying.

I have great admiration for Jessixa Bagley and her incredible ability to add visual energy to Kate Hoefler's flawlessly told story. Her striking changes in perspective allow young readers to really appreciate the growing friendship. Quiet humor is revealed in the differences between text and image. Mae is pleased to have a grown-up companion while Bear is happy to have a small cub beside him. Gifting each other with their courage hats seems the perfect ending to their shared journey. Or is it? A mutual destination is revealed in the final frame ... surprise!                                                                                     

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Chester Van Chime Who Forgot How to Rhyme, written by Avery Monsen and illustrated by Abby Hanlon. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2022. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"See, Chester loved rhyming, in poem or song.
It always felt right, but today it felt ... 
... not right. VERY not right.

He tried not to panic. He played it real cool
and picked up his backpack and walked to his ... 
... learning place with teachers 
and stuff.

You won't want to skip past the endpapers when you read this to your kids. They won't let you! Abby Hanlon has filled both front and back with images that are a two-word rhyme. And, rhyming is definitely what this priceless book encourages. But Chester has lost his ability to rhyme. 

He is bewildered by the loss; but, just can't seem to get it right. Every single page is an invitation to let little ones show their rhyming prowess. They will be shouting out help for Chester from the get-go, while also being entertained with wordplay that provides a suitable meaning for the word he is trying to remember.  He just can't seem to get it together. 

On his way to school he passes scenes and characters that will be familiar to kids who have experience with nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Astute observation will lead little ones back to the endpapers to find many of the same images there. It might be fun to check to see if each one can be found within the book's pages. Obviously, there will be much conversation when you do that. 

Upon arrival in his classroom, his friends try to help him. They try showing him a number of items that do rhyme; he just cannot come up with the right answer. Nothing works. Chester is frustrated by his lack of success. When school ends and Chester begins the long walk home, his pace is slow. Seeing community workers doing what they do best, Chester wonders what might happen if he cannot solve his rhyming problem. It is what he does best. It isn't until he decides not to worry so much that things fall right back into place for him. 

"So maybe I don't need to be quite so stressed 
if I give it my all but I'm not at my ... 

... tippy-top peak performance.

And easy as that, Chester's problem was done
when he realized that playing with words could be ... 


Abby Hanlon's illustrations are done in gouache and colored pencil, and are a perfect match to the fun created for the text of this charming and impressive book. The page turns are perfect for allowing kids a chance to make a guess at the rhymes. There are so many fine details to enjoy. They offer clues that don't seem to help.  Full of humor and action, the artwork has real appeal.                                                                               

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Chickadee: Criminal Mastermind, written by Monica Silvie and illustrated by Elina Ellis. Kids Can Press, 2022. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"After a long and happy childhood, I finally 
left the nest on my sixteenth day. 

That summer and fall, 
I was free as a bird, 
learning to catch bugs
and hanging around the forest. 

But then came winter. 
A shocking thing happened:
cold flakes fell from the sky!

The masked rapscallion who here tells his own story is code-named Chickadee. In fact, that is what he is. Just the same, he is sure his mask keeps him from being identified by the other forest animals. You would guess they know him by the song he sings. Wouldn't you? 


The story he tells begins at birth. Loved and coddled by his delighted parents, he is offered much parental advice. After sixteen days, he is ready to leave the home tree and find his way in the world. All is well until winter makes finding food difficult. On a flight past a nearby house, he makes a grand discovery. Thus, begins his life of crime. He plans carefully, swoops in and takes what is offered time and time again. 

Keeping the loot from others is not difficult. There are hundreds of perfect hiding places; he knows exactly where each one is. While his criminal life sounds plenty exciting, it is also fraught with loneliness. Until two children spot him ... and destroy his perception of himself. They wanted him to find their feeder! It changes his life, bringing his sordid story of crime to an end. 

Perhaps now, he can find a true friend. 

Humorous and eventful, this story is sure to cause more than one chuckle. I love the first-person storytelling and the wholesome appeal of this cheeky little bird. It's wonderful to see him try to obey all the parental rules until he succumbs to the growl in his stomach. Their rules go out the window. How happy he finally is to discover he is not such a 'bad seed'. The digital artwork is as appealing as the story itself. Readers will be pleased to see the rascal speak directly to them. The illustrations definitely add a charming humour to the entire story. 

Back matter includes further enjoyable facts about the black-capped chickadee, the star of the story. A list of select resources is also included. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

This is the Boat that Ben Built, written by Jen Lynn Bailey and illustrated by Maggie Zeng. pajama press, 2021. $22.95 ages 4 and up

"This is the LOON that floats by 
the BEAVER that builds by the 
FISH that swims in the river that 
carries THE BOAT that BEN 

What a fun way for readers to learn about a northern river ecosystem! 

Ben is the young explorer whose day is spent in a small wooden boat that he built himself. His companions (parent and dog) show great pride in his accomplishments. This boat, named Explorer, is packed and ready for whatever the day might bring. He first sees the fish that swim in the river that is floating his boat. His interested protectors for the trip follow along on the riverbank watching his progress. 

The boat continues to float, while Ben takes note of all nearby animals and action. A beaver building a dam attracts his attention; then a loon which requires careful observation through Ben's magnifying glass. Each new discovery is included in the cumulative text that follows his journey down the peaceful river. 

"This is the HERON all proper and prim
that lands on the MOOSE all wobbly and slim
that strolls by the BLACK BEAR taking a swim
that dives by the GOOSE with the gorgeous grin
that glides by the LOON that floats by the BEAVER 
that builds by the FISH that swims in the river
that carries THE BOAT that BEN BUILT." 

A hooting owl provides enough drama to reverse the direction the words have taken, bringing the story full circle. The lively text is just right for early readers with its repetitive language. Paired with Maggie Zeng's luminous digital art, it is sure to be read often and soon independently. Filled with movement and humor that adds to its appeal, it will encourage talk about the way an ecosystem works, food webs, and how many animals flourish in a healthy environment.  

Back matter includes an author's note about the what makes an ecosystem. She follows with related facts for each of the animals Ben meets along the way. Questions are posed to encourage critical thinking. Cumulative stories are not new; this one is the first I've seen about this particular ecosystem.                                                                                          


Sunday, April 10, 2022

Behold Our Magical Garden: Poems Fresh From a School Garden. Written by Allan Wolf and illustrated by Daniel Duncan. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $24.99 ages


"The Three Sisters

They call us the Three Sisters:
we're corn, bean, and squash.
Three flourishing sisters, 
one nourishing meal. 

Three ancient old sisters, 
three histories braided
through stories of 
Native American fields.

Three tangled-up sisters:
we can't tell exactly
where one plant begins
and another one ends.

They call us Three Sisters;
we're constant companions. 
From planting to harvest, 
inseparable friends.

For schools or classrooms considering planting a garden, this book provides inspiration, information, and a healthy dose of getting-down-to-it. Starting with the endpapers, readers will focus attention on the many tools and happy results of creating a garden. 

The first poem gets to the heart of the matter, offering a clear look at what a garden can be. Readers are encouraged to pay close attention to the setting itself by inviting them to find a number of specific items in the garden. Following poems show how the gardeners make a clear plan, and keep careful observational notes on growth, weather, and the passing of the seasons. 

The seeds to be planted have a voice of their own: 

"The Secret Seeds

We seeds hold tomorrow
inside our shells. 
What will we be? 
We will not tell. 
To find out what, 
you'll have to wait
and watch us grow
from grain to great.

Gardeners have much to learn, and much to do to experience success. From germination to anticipation concerning the seeds planted and tended, to volunteering for garden care and learning about herbs and Latin names for each of the plants, there is a lot for them to do. The diary of a carrot is fun. The green bean bower is lovely. The passing of the seasons inspires many observations and even a riddle. Bugs, birds and growing flowers are also part of the conversation. The final poem shows the winter garden as it rests in anticipation of what spring will bring. 

An author's note, followed by a list of notes on each of the poems is useful when considering any follow-up writing for interested students. Digital artwork by Daniel Duncan is colorful, detailed, and provides memorable moments in the life of this magical garden.                                                                                   

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Hungry for the Arts: Poems to Chomp On. Written by Kari-Lynn Winters and Lori Sherritt-Fleming, with pictures by Peggy Collins. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2021. $19.95 ages 5 and up


"The Chore Bot

I've built myself a robot,
to bustle through my chores ... 
like make my bed and clean my room, 
so I can play outdoors. 

It's sculpted very craftily 
from things I found at home, 
like buttons, cans, elastic bands
and blocks of styrofoam.

In this third book in the Hungry for series (following books about Math and Science), the authors turn to the arts - visual arts, drama, dance, music. Each of the poems is designated by its art form in a color-coded circle at the corner of the page.  

The poems are filled with rhythm and motion. They invite readers to make choices about the arts that might be of most interest by sharing scenarios and good fun. From cats that improvise with guitars and drums, to a kitten sharing a song she has written, to jungle drama that leads to a pirate ship and to life in space all inspired by a 'tickle trunk's costumes, interested children will find much to emulate as they consider the place of the arts in their daily life. They are encouraged to create drama, dance, and imaginary creatures as they share the poems included. 

"And for you, small House Mouse 
piano would be best. 
Sing a little softer,
so we can hear the rest."

They did as Maestro asked, and even learned some more. 
Decrescendo then crescendo.
Hear their voices soar.

Bright artwork is an effective and enjoyable complement, featuring robots, dinosaurs, animals and a fun group of kids willing to take part and encourage others to do the same. Very inviting!

Friday, April 8, 2022

If This Bird Had Pockets: A Poem in Your Pocket Day Celebration. Poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, with illustrations by Emma J. Virjan. Wordsong, Astra Books. Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"Dear Milkweed 
    by Monarch Butterfly

As an egg
I stuck to your leaf. 
When I hatched 
I ate it.

As a caterpillar
I ate more, 

And now I float 
         flower to flower
hour by hour
         sipping your nectar
laying my eggs. 

I have wings now. 
I can soar. 
You knew me before.

Thank you."

If one of your kids at home, or at school, love animals and poetry, this is the book for them. The poems are written to celebrate A Poem in Your Pocket Day and will be much appreciated when they are shared. 21 poems were written for the collection; two are by the author as narrator, and the other 21 are credited to, and voiced by an assortment of animals. 

A young child imagines what poem each of the animals might write to carry in its pocket as it celebrates this special day. In doing so, they reveal information about themselves. There is much to discover. 

"Bath Time 
         by Short-Tailed Chinchilla

I take my bath without a splash. 
I wash in old volcanic ash.

To look and feel my best I must
spin and twist in ancient dust. 

Dusty, fluffy, dense, and fine - 
no fur on earth is soft as mine.

First-person voice has real impact for young readers. Here, they are sure to learn more about animals they recognize and those that are not familiar to them. Poems have a way of making kids see the world in a new light. They evoke memories, make us laugh, inspire conversation, and show us the power of words to make a difference in all the best ways.  

A lot of research was required to pen the many animals who have a place of importance in this collection. I can only imagine the joy found in learning about the animals whose voices Amy VanDerwalter pens here. Paring down what is learned is the gift a poet brings to the process - saying what needs to be said in well-chosen, feels-right text. Emma Virjan captures the settings, the movements and the beauty of each animal using graphite sketches painted digitally.                                                                                

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Take Off Your Brave: The World through the Eyes of a Preschool Poet. Poems by Nadim (age 4) with illustrations by Yasmeen Ismail. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"My Lonely Garden 

It's peaceful:
Especially when 
There are bugs flying around in the sun
And I get to just be thinking
On my nice blue bench
And all I can feel on my back is sunshine
And all I get to do is look at the beautiful plants and things
And do whatever I want 
In my garden. 

This book shares one young child's understanding of his world, and is prefaced with a note from Nadim's mother explaining how this book came to be. The rest of it is filled with the thoughts of a four-year-old in poetic form. It is not like most poetry we read in books for children. Yet, it is absolutely representative of how young children view the world from their own perspective, and it is quite magical.  

The poems are framed by wide variety in topic and observation. Each one shares space with mixed media illustrations that enhance meaning and provide context for readers. They are as imaginative as the poems written for this fine collection. Included are a few collaborations with his sister, his teacher, even his preschool class. 

Nadim began, at 4, responding to his mom's cues with ideas of his own. She put his words to paper, and read them back to him. After a period of time, he offered his own words and ideas for his mom to scribe for him. As she wrote, she inserted the line breaks whenever he stopped or took a longer breath. Now, he can write them on his own. 

Here's a quote from his mother:

"When he first started he was still learning to write, so he orated them to me and I wrote them down word-for-word as he spoke them. Later he began to write them himself.” 

Nadim's words are proof that four-year-children have their own world view. His poems reflect that. He talks about many things: his best friend, a magic box, love, his dream school, his teacher, being on a train. Life is full for little ones. Nadim willingly shares his observations, and shows that poetry can be for everyone.                                                                                               

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Ain't Burned All The Bright, written by jason reynolds, with artwork by jason griffin. Simon & Schuster, 2022. $24.99 ages 14 and up

" ... at the woman on the news saying 
another woman has just been - - - 
now back to you, he says 
and goes back to another man saying
another man has been brutally - - -
and then both are talking about
a kid my age 
who couldn't breathe

The summer of 2020 is unforgettable, to say the very least. In this new book, narrrated by a young boy, readers can feel the almost unbearable suffering that surrounds him. The pandemic is wreaking havoc on all people ... their physical and mental health, their movement, their families. His mother spends her days watching the television and never changing the channel, his sister on her phone talking about joining the protests, his brother playing endless video games, and his father confined to the bedroom with a hacking cough and fever, while the world is reeling out of control. Adding to his alarm is the news about George Floyd and the numerous young black men being killed at the hands of those police officers sworn to protect them. His fears are real. 

"I'm the only person
who can tell
we're all suffocating." 

Three breaths presented in three long sentences: the narrator navigates through the family's daily life, his fears and worries for that family and the alarming state of the world, to finally see that what was so important to each of them is what brought them through to a more hopeful place. So much has changed while so much has remained the same. 

Jason Griffin uses mixed media artwork to help bring the family from chaos to hope. His stunning art is quite the remarkable accompaniment to the spare text penned by the gifted Jason Reynolds. What a memory this is for a time in our lives no one could have anticipated or even contemplated. The book ends with a conversation between the two Jasons about their collaborative process for creating this work during the pandemic.  

It is a book created by two astounding talents in honor of those who have never known what it is to REALLY BREATHE, and for those who cannot imagine what that must be like. It should be read in all high school classrooms; in fact, by each one of  us.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Does a Bulldozer Have a Butt? Written by Derick Wilder and illustrated by K-Fai Steele. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2022. $22.99 ages 3 and up


"Does a sundae have a butt?
Yum! It's two scoops, side by side. 

And do T. Rexes have butts? 
Once, but sadly, they all died.

Do bulldozers have butts? 
Look, they're powerful and square. 

And do Sasquatches have butts? 
Sure, they're kind of round and bare."

Chelsea, are you listening? My younger granddaughter, at 5, continues to think 'butt humor' is hilarious and endlessly shareable. She is going to think this book is a riot. 

A dad and child are on the morning walk that takes them from home to school, when the child has a question for Daddy. Their conversation turns into a series of questions about the things that do and don't have butts. As they stroll past many settings on their way, readers will be constantly drawn to the artist's astute presentation of as many butts as one can imagine. Her watercolor, ink and pencil illustrations are detailed and sure to encourage careful observation of every playful spread. 

The questions continue, as do the answers in playful rhymes. Dad is endlessly patient, answering every presented question with wit and honesty. 

"Does a firefly have a butt?
Yep, it makes a tiny blink. 
And does an ogre have a butt?
Blech! It makes a dreadful stink." 

After a trip through San Francisco streets, the two reach their destination, arriving just on time for the start of a new school day. The final two full-page spreads present a perfect 'ending'. I will put this on our 'keeper' shelf to share when Chelsea makes her way to Nona's house this summer. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech. Written by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek, with illustrations by Richard Jones. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2022. $25.99 ages 10 and up


People who live in cities
never get to accidentally step
in a cow pie. You never find them 
fresh, steaming on a concrete street
near a parking meter
in front of the French bakery. 
No one puts alfalfa in a pie
the way a cow does.

I love this poem. I have had the pleasure of avoiding more cow pies than I stepped in; still, I remember wandering through farm pastures as a city kid and being quite astounded at how many there were. Many of the poems in this book have made an impression. They call me back to read them again and again. It is a very refreshing read. 

This quote from Ted Kooser sums up the way he writes his poetry. It must be much the same for his partner in writing. Readers don't know who wrote which poem, and that is as it should be, I think. It's fun to wonder and imagine, just as the poets want readers to do as they read the thirty poems here.  

"I write for other people with the hope that I can help them to see the wonderful things within their everyday experiences. In short, I want to show people how interesting the ordinary world can be if you pay attention." 

Paying close attention is exactly what they have done for this collection. The poems will encourage intrigued readers to do the same. They will inspire anyone who takes time to carefully consider how much there is to notice around us. Presented in four sections - fire, water, air and earth - and noting such things as a thunderstorm, a secret, autumn leaves, a walk, guppies, houseflies, a harpist, a book, a barn, and the tv remote bring common items and expanded imagination to the forefront. You will find much to admire and love as you read the poems again and again.

The expressive language offers an awareness that is fresh and thoughtful. The illustrations, created in paint and edited digitally, provide perfect companion pieces that are the absolute best choice every time. Afterwords by each poet are insightful, and show how important it is to use our gift of imagination. My favorite from this wonderful collection is ... nope, I absolutely cannot bring myself to choose only one. There are many, for many distinct reasons. 


The turtle never married. 
Every day he swam
laps around the lake 
to clean his house. 
Sometimes he heard
a knock on his shell, 
but "Do come in"
he never said. 

The turtle was very 
attached to where he lived
and never wandered far. 
His shell was the shape 
of a tiny old car
with turtle feet for wheels, 
a tail instead of a trunk, 

and zero room for 
nosy passengers.