the world is so full of a number of things!

Today, I’ve got a stack of fabulous books that open our eyes, minds, and hearts to the extraordinary wonders gracing Planet Earth.

Out of dozens and dozens of titles I’ve read this summer, these all felt outstanding to me.

the jungle cover image

The Jungle, written and illustrated by Helen Borten
first published in 1968; reprinted in 2018 by Enchanted Lion Books

Helen Borten’s exquisite prose captivates us as we witness one day in a tropical rain forest.

the jungle interior by Helen Borten

“Out of the mist a vast ocean of leaves appears, splashed with yellow, orange, and violet blossoms. It is the roof of the jungle…Macaws and parakeets feed and squawk in the treetops.”

Her respect for her child audience is immense; her sophisticated, vibrant phrases tantalize us with raucous sounds, dramatic encounters, mysterious sights, unusual flora and fauna, in this exotic, magnificent place.

the jungle print2 by Helen Borten

Even more exceptional are her sublime prints. Powerful shapes, intricate textures, striking compositions greet us on every page. Borten does not play down to children, but delivers artwork that elevates her jungle subjects to their appropriate glory.


I’m so pleased that Enchanted Lion has reprinted this. It’s a true gem for ages 6 through adult.

the honeybee cover image

The Honeybee, written by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
published in 2018 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Anything Isabelle Arsenault touches is visually extraordinary, including this lovely investigation of the amazing honeybee.

honeybee interior2 by Hall and Arsenault

Her elegant palette resists childish garishness, yet still gleams with the everywhere-gold of honey, the handsome, yellow-and-black kit of honeybees, the hazy glow of meadows bathed in sunlight, while busyness buzzes vigorously through the pages.

honeybee interior3 by Hall and Arsenault

Kirsten Hall’s text invites a delicious curiosity. Her lines skippet with perky rhythms, and her enthusiastic, sparkling rendering of the life of a bee makes us crane our necks to find out more. Practical ways to support the well-being of bees are listed on the closing page. Superb, for ages 4 and up.

water and land cover image

Water Land: Land and Water Forms Around the World, written and illustrated by Christy Hale
published in 2018, a Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press

Brilliant book-making here teaches children almost magically about ten common land and water forms.

Hale accomplishes this via ingenuously die-cut pages that pair one land form and its parallel water form. For example, here’s a bay:

water land interior by Hale

Now flip the page and… it turns into a cape!

water land interior2 by Hale

So delightfully clever! A huge fold-out at the end briefly defines all 10 forms and shows us where each can be found on a world map. Brilliant for ages 4 and up.

hawk rising cover image

Hawk Rising, written by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Brian Floca
published in 2018 by Roaring Brook Press

A lot of children’s books soften the fierceness of the natural world. This astonishing book showcases the splendor of a red-tailed hawk, gazing without flinching at the power and hunting skill which enable it to survive.

Hawk Rising interior4 by Gianferrari and FLoca

Father Hawk is off at daybreak to find food for his brood of chicks. Gianferrari patiently unreels the slow expanse of time as the chicks wait, wait, wait, all day for his delivery of food. Her brief, lyrical text packs in keen detail of the adult hawk’s behavior — scanning, sunbathing, kiting, perching, and diving with “talons thrashing” towards his prey.

hawk rising interior2 by Gianferrari and Floca

Meanwhile, Brian Floca’s astonishing artwork unfurls that feather-soft, yet mighty wingspan, and carries us along for the ride — floating sky high, careening towards earth, grasping with cruelly-hooked talons, gazing with piercing eye. Transfixing.

Hawk Rising interior3 by Gianferrari and FLoca

The hawk misses his prey, twice. In the end, though, he seizes a squirrel, and here is where some young children will just not be able to handle this book. I say bravo for this amazing display of the skill, majesty, and raw power of a hawk, but be aware that Cute Animals Die in full, double-page, glory and use your judgement with your own kids.  I could go on and on about what an outstanding job this author and illustrator have done, and I expect awards for this title. Just check it out for yourself. Ages 5-ish and up.

mushroom fan club cover image

The Mushroom Fan Club, written and illustrated by Elise Gravel
published in 2018 by Drawn & Quarterly

Elise Gravel adores mushrooms and her enthusiasm sashays out with cheery, quirky, aplomb from this charming book.

mushroom fan club interior by Gravel

Her appealing, contemporary, graphic style, and her laid-back, friendly voice make us feel like we’re traipsing through the woods with her on a mushroom hunt while she regales us with fascinating facts. My favorite page is the one where she lists dozens of “beautiful mushroom names” she’s encountered over the years! Such delicious mouthfuls of words!

mushroom fan club interior2 by Gravel

You’ll meet all manner of mushrooms and feel strangely drawn to these odd fellows by the time you’re done here. Ages 7 and up.

bonkers about beetles cover image

Bonkers About Beetles, written and illustrated by Owen Davey
published in 2018 by Flying Eye Books

Did you know that “beetles account for a quarter of all the discovered animal species in the world”?! Mind blowing.

bonkers about beetles interior3 by Davey

This stylish survey of the humble beetle is crammed with fascination as we learn about their crazy bodies, defense mechanisms, eating habits, camouflages, and mighty feats!

bonkers about beetles interior2 by Davey

Plus, you can learn how to make a bug hotel to help these guys out over the winter.  This is yet another entry in Owen Davey’s excellent series so grab this one, then work your way through his other titles. Fantastic choices for ages 7 and up.