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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

The African Orchestra, written by Wendy Hartmann, illustrated by Joan Rankin
published in 2017 by Crocodile Books, Interlink Publishing Group

That buzzing cicada? That crackle-snap of a seed pod breaking? The thunder of hooves as a herd of zebras races across the plains? The burbling of a brook freshened by a mighty rainfall?

All those sounds woven into the wild, vast, haunting, lovely, lush, bleak African landscapes, found their way into African musical instruments as humans invented ways to replicate nature’s songs.

Thought-provoking ideas, lyrical text, and marvelously inventive, artistic images capture the natural world of Africa and the emotion of its music. A brilliant concept and collaboration to muse over with children ages 3 and up.

You can pursue the idea of nature-inspired music with these brilliant guides to classical music:

Listen to the Birds, music selection and explanatory notes by Ana Gerhard, illustrations by Cecilia Verela, translated from Spanish by Heléne Roulston and Sabrina Diotalevi
first published in Spain in 2010; English edition 2013 by The Secret Mountain

Amazing Water, music selection and explanatory notes by Ana Gerhard, illustrations by Margarita Sada, translated from Spanish by David Lytle
first published in Spain; English edition 2016 by The Secret Mountain

Gerhard chooses 20 classical selections for each book, with themes and sounds that convey birdsong and water respectively.

For example, Vivaldi’s “The Goldfinch and Saint-Saën’s “Aviary” from The Carnival of the Animals are included in Listen to the Birds. Schubert’s Trout quintet and “Alla Hornpipe” from Handel’s Water Music are included in Amazing Water.

Background for each piece is provided which might be best read by a parent to dole out judiciously, as well as brilliant listening notes that accompany the included CD, drawing children’s attention to specific aspects of the music and explaining how these reflect the subject. There are also brief bios of each composer and a glossary of musical terms, and all of this is presented on pages dominated by joyful illustrations.

This is a great resource for homeschooling families, for example, who could putter through one volume over a 20 week period with children as young as 3 or 4.

There is one other title in this series, Simply Fantastic, which explores fantasy-oriented musical selections.

 

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Each of today’s picture books features fairly ordinary animal fare — dogs, ducks, wolves, a groundhog — but that’s the end of the commonplace as we pull out the stops on creativity and have some good fun!

Beginning with…

Little Wolf’s First Howling, written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee
published in 2017 by Candlewick Press

Introducing one wolf pup and his irrepressible personality which bubbles up at the most surprising moments!

Tonight is a red-letter night for Little Wolf. It’s his first chance to howl at the full moon, to unleash that mournful AAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO! from mountaintop into starry skies. Big Wolf gives him a demonstration howl, then turns things over to the cub.

But what comes out is a dancing, prancing mixture of wolf and scat singer! Howls punctuated by diddily skedaddily bipping and boppitting!

Try as he might to lasso this thing, swirls of razzamatazz jazz just can’t stay out of Little Wolf’s howl. And you know what they say: If you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em!

A singing, swinging good time full of primal howls and prime beats, this one begs for gleeful participation from ages 2 and up.

Frankie, written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan
published in 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Frankie is the new eager-beaver pup just adopted from the shelter and headed for his new home.

He is greeted there…well, not exactly greeted…let’s say he encounters there the old, I’ve-been-here-awhile-sonny-and-don’t-you-forget-it dog, Nico. Nico is not amused by this new family member, least of all when Frankie enthusiastically tries to play with his toys and occupy his bed. Grrr.

It’s looking a bit bleak for Frankie when — surprise! — he receives his very own welcome-home-package from the family. Suddenly, it’s Nico who wants in on this sharing business!

With minimal text, almost entirely confined to thought bubbles for the two dogs, this could make a vibrant, untraditional early reader as well as a read-aloud that kids will memorize quickly and enjoy “reading” again and again by themselves. Doggy cheer, for ages 2 and up.

A Greyhound a Groundhog, written by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
published in 2017 by Schwartz & Wade Books

It’s nearly impossible, I think, to capture the essence of this book in a paragraph of mere words. The waltz of text and illustration which create a virtual whirlpool of dog, groundhog, and higgledy-piggledy language just won’t sit still long enough for that!

Suffice it to say that we start off with one staid, sleeping greyhound and one small, peeping groundhog and, just as an old-fashioned merry-go-round gradually picks up speed, the rhythmic text and racing, chasing creatures slowly, then wildly spin and churn themselves into a dizzying circle of mixed up animalia!

It’s a tongue-twisting, breathless blast of fun, brilliantly illustrated in surging, streaming, joyful abandon. Enjoy it with ages 4 and up. Older readers especially may appreciate the fanciful wordplay in this one.

On Duck Pond, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall
published in 2017 by The Cornell Lab Publishing Group

We’re quieting way down here, drifting back into the realm of reality, of quiet marshes with their water-loving populations of herons, frogs, and ducks.

Jane Yolen has written a lovely narrative-poem about a morning’s walk by Duck Pond, witnessing the small dramas of wildlife there. Ducks chittering. Water spattering. Turtles slipping from logs into the murky depths. Gangly-legged herons and quicksilver minnows, skitterish frogs and a shy bunny in the grasses, all play their parts in this hushed spectacle.

Taking the time to pause and absorb the flurries of panic, the calming of waters, the noiseless stillness, the hidden lives in this one small piece of nature, Yolen awakens us to these spellbinding communities, to the allure of nature’s small theaters.

I love this book and its appealing call to slow down and observe the natural world. Handsomely illustrated with watercolor scenes bathed in the rosy glow of dawn, the book includes back pages of information about specific ducks, birds, and other animals seen in the pictures. Share this window to wonder with ages 3 and up.

Animal Colors and More, written and illustrated by Katie Viggers
published in 2017 by POW!

I’ve loved Katie Viggers’ work in her previous books including Almost an Animal Alphabet, reviewed here.

Once again, the exquisite line, charm, humor, delicacy, and unexpectedness in this book about colors leaves me smitten.

Explore colors and patterns through pages of brilliant animal illustrations, plus have some fun naming colors, matching pairs, and naming species via the artwork on the endpapers in this engaging little book.

If I had toddlers, I’d snap up all 3 of Viggers’ books — alphabet, numbers, and colors. They are that good! Ages 15 months and up.

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My stack of books today glows budding-leaf green and robin’s-egg blue. Oh, what is as cheery and hopeful as spring? Soak up some gladness with these books, bursting with life, growth and new beginnings.

What Will Grow? written by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
published in 2017 by Bloomsbury

For the littlest crop of sweet potatoes, don’t miss this sweet ode to seeds. Susie Ghahremani’s lovely artwork sweeps across the pages with luscious hues of springtime, summer, fall, straight through to the blue-cold of winter. Along the way we peek at seeds — round wrinkly peas, stripey sunflower seeds, snug prickly pine seeds packed into a cone — and discover what will grow from them.

Jennifer Ward’s minimal text provides just the right, lilting clues. She cleverly describes each seed with just three or four words, wisely choosing not to weigh down the delight and wonder of the illustrations.

A few gatefolds along the way augment the thrill of discovery –such fun to see that tall sunflower stretching up-up-up! End pages tell how to sow each of the seeds mentioned. This is a beauty of a book to enjoy with ages 18 months and up.

Over and Under the Pond, written by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

Gliding along the quiet waters of a pond, observing the burble of life above the surface and the secret worlds below comes this elegant book.

The third collaboration between Messner and Neal, it’s as visually striking and wonder-filled as their previous titles which I’ve reviewed here and here.

Messner’s text revels in the jeweled glory of this watery world with skittering whirligig beetles, mussy busy beavers, ghostly-quiet herons a-stalking, and all the shimmering, dappled light. Neal’s handsome artwork captures the hush, the aqua-depths, the muck and reeds and secretive small worlds. Ingenuous changes in perspective keep every page fresh.

I’m thrilled that he places an African-American boy and mom in this wild, out-of-doors setting. Far too little diversity in children’s literature occurs outside of urban settings.

Learn more about each one of the species presented in several pages of  Author’s Notes. I have to say, as a boating enthusiast, I was bugged by the paddling faux pas here, but truly, this is another winner from this team for ages 3 and up.

Robins!: How They Grow Up, written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow
published in 2017 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A couple of robin siblings narrate the story of their lives in this information-soaked, immensely-engaging book from one of the best picture book makers, Eileen Christelow.

From the migration north of their parents, through nest-building, egg-incubating, and all the care and feeding of those scraggly chicks, Christelow’s text brims with intriguing detail, perfect pacing, and the appealing voice of these young robins. This reads like a story — not a mite of dry, merely-factual tone.

Christelow tracks their growth as they leave the nest, learn to feed themselves, and at about five months of age take to the skies to fly south. True to the realities of nature, two of their fellow nestmates don’t make it that far. Those harsh episodes are taken in stride by Christelow. It’s a fabulous presentation.

Colorful, captivating watercolor illustrations dominate the pages, bringing us eye to beak with these awkward chicks, right into the nest as it were. An Author’s Note tells how Christelow became so enamored with these birds, plus there’s a glossary and a couple Q&A pages with more Robin Facts. A gem for ages 4 and up.

Plants Can’t Sit Still, written by Rebecca E. Hirsch, illustrations by Mia Posada
published in 2016 by Millbrook Press

The ravishing colors of Minneapolis-artist (woot!) Mia Posada’s cut paper collages are the first thing you’ll notice when you open this book and oh! they will enchant you!

The fresh-lime burst of green leaves, blushing apricot tulips, twilight-purple morning glories, the seductive red of berries lurking in the bushes — every page surges with color, texture, and beauty.

Rebecca Hirsch’s text is every bit as enticing because although you may think of plants as sitting still, rooted in place, Hirsch leads us on a waltz of discovering otherwise. In fact, plants squirm, creep, climb, snap, nod, tumble, fling, whirl, drift…why, they just can’t sit still!

Back pages tell lots, lots more about plants and the particular species discussed in this book.  Genius concept, brilliantly carried out by this team. Full of the wonder of discovery for ages 2 and up.

Pig & Goose and the First Day of Spring, written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond
published in 2017 by Charlesbridge

This charming early-reader knocked my socks off and warmed my heart. I don’t know if Rebecca Bond plans any more adventures for these too, but I have my fingers crossed!

The freshness of a spring morning has put Pig in a fine mood. A glorious sun and clear blue sky will do that! “Goody gumdrops!” Pig exclaims, and immediately makes plans for a picnic by the pond.

Pig soon meets up with Goose whose magnificent flying and swimming abilities make her wilt a bit with envy. Goose tries to coach Pig in these goose-y skills but…pigs really aren’t built for such things. Poor Pig! What is it she can do well?

Many things, it turns out, as she hosts a superb First-Day-0f-Spring party! Wow! You will want to be Pig’s guest at her next fiesta I’ll bet! Delectable details, spritzes of beauty, good humor, gladness of heart, and a dear friendship — that’s what’s here. Bond’s fetching watercolor work is the cherry on top. Readers who can manage Frog and Toad can read this on their own, or share it with listeners as young as 3. Lovely!

Wake Up! words by Helen Frost, photography by Rick Lieder
published in 2017 by Candlewick

This is the latest collaboration for poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder. Each one provides a breathtaking pause from the cacophony of noise, the jungles of cement, a step away, a redirect of our gaze towards the glorious spectacle of nature. All done in whisper quiet.

Feast your eyes and soul on the magenta swoosh of a peony, the emerald wetness of a frog, the fuzzy warmth of a newborn lamb. Wake up to manifestations of new life “exploding outside your door!”

I love the work being done by this team, simply bringing children up close to the wonders of nature, quieting them with few words, thoughtful questions, enticing them to wander out of doors. Find my reviews of two of their other titles here and here. Share them all with ages 18 months and older.

Birds Make Nests, written and illustrated by Michael Garland
published in 2017 by Holiday House

Michael Garland’s arresting woodcuts adorn the pages of this book and captivate us with the extraordinary wonder of bird nests.

Minimal text describes some of the vast variety in construction from a hummingbird’s tiny woven cup, to the giant mounds made by flamingos, and one house sparrow’s nest lodged in the pocket of a stop light.

The bulk of what we learn comes via Garland’s handsome prints, flooding the pages with earthy colors and rich texture. I love the minimal interference between the child reader and these wonders of nature. No back pages, even, with more info. Just — soak in the craftsmanship of both bird and artist. A lovely, leisurely wander for ages 3 and up.

First Garden: The White House Garden and How it Grew, written and illustrated by Robbin Gourley
published in 2011 by Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Children earnestly digging in the soil. Heirloom seeds passed down from Thomas Jefferson. Beehives and ladybugs, eggplants and blueberries. But no beets!

The story of Michelle Obama’s gardening initiative dances with the joy of the earth’s fruitfulness, the brilliance of children learning by digging, sowing, weeding, harvesting, and cooking delicious food in the White House kitchen!

Add in the history of White House gardening down through the centuries from John Adams’ first vegetable and fruit gardens through Patricia Nixon’s garden tours. Sprinkle atop some delicious recipes to try straight from the White House. Then illustrate with Robbin Gourley’s sunny, vivacious watercolors. Ta da! You’ve concocted this delicious book!

A delight to share with ages 4 and up. Plus, you can discover why there are no beets!

There are lots more spring-y titles listed in my Subject Guide. Look under Science: Seasons. And Happy Springtime to one and all!

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Oooh. Autumn is my favorite season.

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And everything wonderful about fall — the brisk air and crisp leaves, coolness and coziness, smoke in the air and spiced cider in my mug — gets prime treatment in autumn-themed picture books. There are so many beauties out there! Here are five stand-outs:

yellow-time-cover-imageYellow Time, written and illustrated by Lauren Stringer
published in 2016 by Beach Lane Books

Minneapolis author-illustrator Lauren Stringer knows the core, heart-of-goodness about the seasons and loves to show us an unusual perspective on them as she’s demonstrated before. (See her magnificent Winter is the Warmest Season, reviewed here.)

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Her newest title exults in fall. Yellow time. Yes, those maples turn crimson and flame, but look again. The birches and aspen and ash simply glow in the autumn sunshine, a fluttering, spangly yellow mass. Breathtaking. “A symphony of yellow,” Stringer says. You folks in Colorado know all about this, don’t you.

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Stringer’s pristine, lyrical text bursts with yellow joy and her illustrations swoosh an exaltation of yellow happiness across every page. I love this book! Ages 2 and up.

wonderfall-cover-imageWonderfall, written and illustrated by Michael Hall
published in 2016 by Greenwillow Books

This book is delight-fally clever!

Michael Hall has played on words and played with words to bring us 15 clever word-inventions and teeny poems celebrating fall.

Explore this beautifall…

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…thankfall…

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plentifall, resourcefall time of year as we move from late summer to the first snow of winter. A bold autumn palette, simplified shapes, and spare text create a warm, quiet, glad collection, perfect to share with children ages 3 and up.

goodbye-summer-hello-autumn-cover-imageGoodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, written and illustrated by Kenard Pak
published in 2016 by Henry Holt and Company

One little girl takes a walk, through woodland and field, past stream and into town, greeting everyone and everything she sees along the way.

Foxes, birds, beavers and insects — all are busy preparing for fall. Even the flowers and clouds, the wind and air flaunt changes that signal a new season.

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By the time she’s made her rounds, we’ve walked from late summer into chill autumn and right back into her snug house.

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Such a pleasant journey. One of the things I love best about this book is the racial diversity in a non-urban setting. Her community is a quaint village nestled in the woods — Stars Hollow, if you will — and Kenard Pak has peopled it with a lovely array of skin tones. Thank you! Share it with children ages 2 and up.

hocus-pocus-its-fall-cover-imageHocus Pocus, It’s Fall!, written by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illustrated by Susan Gal
published in 2016 by Abrams Appleseed

Following their magical springtime treat (Abracadabra, It’s Spring! reviewed here), this dynamite team has cooked up some hocus pocus for fall! Hurray!

Immerse yourselves in the glory of autumn with Gal’s swimmy, spattery, rosy, cozy renditions of apple picking, milkweed bursting, leaf reddening, jack-o-lantern carving, fall days.

Each two-page spread holds the start of a clever poem, with a magical flourish…

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“Busy squirrels fill their cheeks. Abba zabba!”

…and a gate-fold page that opens to reveal the presto! change-o!  surprise fulfillment of the scene:

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“Food for weeks!”

Splendid and jolly for ages 18 months and older.

fall-ball-cover-imageFall Ball, written and illustrated by Peter McCarty
published in 2013 by Henry Holt and Company

If you’re looking for something a tad more rough and rowdy, you can’t go wrong with Bobby and his pudgy, round-faced, hedgehog-haired crew!

These kids love heading home from school because they’re chomping at the bit to get outside and PLAY! Hurrah for them!

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Time for a little pick-up football. Add an earnest, grabby dog and a gargantuan pile of leaves and you’ve got all the ingredients for a lovely spot of mayhem.

Only a little, though. For as you know, dusk comes mighty early in the fall. That’s okay because other Cozy Bits  come right along with nightfall for this lovable bunch. Charming, for ages 3 and up.

There are lots more autumn reads in my Subject Index under Science: Seasons. Grab a cinnamon doughnut and settle in!

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natural world cover imageNatural World: A Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature, by Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley, illustrated by Owen Davey
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions

I love discovering sumptuous nonfiction books. The marriage of fascinating, well-written text with beautiful illustration work feeds the minds of young children straight on through to centenarians.

This stunning new title from Wide Eyed Books beckons us to wonderment, fans out for us the glories of the natural world.

natural world interior wood, jolley and davey

Gape over the massive skeleton of a grizzly bear, then flip a few pages and meet the microscopic tardigrade, also known as a water bear or a moss piglet! Think of that!

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Investigate food chains and camouflage, eyes equipped for night vision and animals with spines. Explore all sorts of habitats. Survey different sorts of beaks, nests, seed dispersal systems, leaf shapes.

natural world interior4 wood, jolley, and davey

Small, well-organized segments of text fit amongst pages mainly devoted to extraordinarily handsome illustration work, stylish design, a muted, natural palette. I appreciate the respect for the reader inherent in all the choices made in this book’s production. There is no talking down here.

natural world interior2 wood, jolley, and davey

In a note to readers, the editor Jenny Broom exclaims over the power of curiosity. “The more we explore the natural world, the more we uncover its boggling complexity. And the more we strive to comprehend the workings of nature, the more we see the interconnectedness between creatures and the environments they inhabit. The natural world is inextricably linked.”

Absolutely true. Turn your kids’ curious minds towards a love and appreciation for the diversity, beauty, uncanniness, of the Earth and raise up a generation of caretakers for this good planet.

natural world interior5 wood, jolley, and davey

And an added bonus! If you purchase the book, the jacket unfolds to reveal a huge wall poster of all manner of creatures!

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Summer’s here. Days at the beach. Fireflies at dusk. Week-ends at the cabin. Soak it all up with today’s exceptional books.

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Captain Jack and the Pirates, by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
first published in Great Britain, 2015; published in the U.S. in 2016 by Dial Books for Young Readers

Ahhhh! This is the second book about that darling boy Jack and his small cohorts. The first joyous episode, reviewed here, saw them taking on a dragon. This time, they’re building a galleon and sporting with pirates!

captain jack and the pirates interior bently and oxenbury

Their adventure ends properly with orangeade, cake, tea sandwiches, and ice cream. I cannot recommend these stories highly enough. Outdoor play. Imagination galore. Just the right touch of parental love. And Oxenbury’s monumentally warm, human figures. Picture book perfection for ages Two and up.

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Otters Love to Play, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Meilo So
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

Kids aren’t the only ones who love to play. Otters are irrepressible in that department! Tag. Wrestling. Sliding. Tug-of-War. What a jolly species!

otters love to play interior london and so

The fascinating description of the lives of otters in this book will scoop you in from the get-go. Exceptional nature lore, written partly in a large font for the youngest listeners with additional text intertwined for slightly-olders. Meilo So — I love her art! — brings us face to face with these adorable otter pups and four seasons in their world. Absolutely top-notch, for ages 2 and much-older.

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Wake Up, Island, by Mary Casanova, with woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski
published in 2016 by University of Minnesota Press

Two Minnesotans have collaborated on this gorgeous ode to our beloved, up-north life at the cabin. 

Casanova’s poetic text ambles through the earliest hours of the day — seriously early in summer up north — tracing the sunlight, the dewdrops, the moose and herons and red squirrels finding their breakfasts in the quiet, chill of morning. And the yummy blueberry pancakes ready for your breakfast, fueling a delightful day at the lake.

wake up island interior detail casanova and wroblewski

Nick Wroblewski is an artist our family has admired for years. His woodcut blockprints are exquisite! (See his website here.) When I discovered he was illustrating this book, I had no doubt it would be beautiful. And yes, it is. A treat for any northerner, ages 2 through adult.

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Waiting for High Tide, written and illustrated by Nikki McClure
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Here’s another artist you should know. Washington-state artist Nikki McClure creates stunning cut-paper artwork and has given us many lovely books. Find out more and purchase her art at her website here. This book follows a much different storyline than some of her earlier titles. It’s an intriguing, adventure-kindling tale about building a raft.

waiting for high tide illustration nikki mcclure

The process includes finding and hauling and cutting massive logs. Ingenuous lashing. Painstaking notching. Muscles and craftsmanship and cleverness and patience. While all that is going on, we explore the seashore around us and wait for high tide to give our raft lift-off so we can…swim! Gorgeous, astonishing and inspiring, for ages 4 to adult.

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A Beetle Is Shy, by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books

If you know the other books in this series exploring Nests, Seeds, Rocks, Butterflies, and Eggs, you will 1. gasp at the fact that there’s another one and 2. rush out to find it. They are gems of beauty, pure and simple. Every one.

a beetle is shy interior aston and long

Jewel-colored, iridescent beetles are “kaleidoscopic” while the North American featherwing beetle is “microscopic” and believe it or not, the roasted longhorn beetle larvae is “tasty” to some folks in Australia…apparently. Discover the fascination of beetles in this exquisite new volume from a richly-talented team. Ages 4 and up.

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Lucy & Tom at the Seaside, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
originally published in Great Britain, 1976; this edition published in 2015 by Red Fox

We’ve loved the Lucy and Tom stories by the one-and-only Shirley Hughes for the past 30 years. Now Red Fox is making it easier for you to enjoy these sweet stories, too, so a new generation need not be deprived!

lucy and tom at the seaside illustration shirley hughes

It’s off to the seaside on this hot day, filled with the lovely ordinariness of people paddling, dogs dashing, children splashing at the water’s edge. A picnic, complete with bothersome wasps. A sand castle that dissolves with the incoming tide. A bucket to collect things. Simple pleasures, depicted with enormous warmth, for ages Under-Two and older.

traveling butterflies cover image

Traveling Butterflies, written and illustrated by Susumu Shingu
first published in Japan in 2012; published in North America in 2015 by Owlkids Books

Japanese artist Shingu has created a stunningly-beautiful, pictorial narrative of the monarch butterfly, her life-cycle, and her miraculous migration from the northland to Mexico and back again.

traveling butterflies illustration detail by susumu shingu

Against the backdrop of brilliantly-colorful, striking paintings, his text — simple, stripped down lines — fills in just a few details. The rest is provided in a short Author’s Note at the end. This quiet book allows us to  feast our eyes, immerse ourselves in the splendor of these fragile creatures. A beauty for ages 2 through much-older.

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Among a Thousand Fireflies, by Helen Frost, with photographs by Rick Lieder
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

I know. I’m bringing you a lot of insects today. But summer is full of them, you know, and I am astonished by the beautiful presentation they receive in each one of these books.

This is another outstanding collaboration between poet Helen Frost and artist Rick Lieder. I reviewed their first title, Step Gently Out, here

among a thousand fireflies interior frost and lieder

Focus in on the magical, tiny, lamplighter of summer, the firefly, and learn something extraordinary about how, in a wooded glade lit up with hosts of these twinklers, two in particular find one another. It’s another gorgeous piece of work which hushes us and calls us to wonder, appreciation, and delight. Ages 2 through much-older.

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The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon, written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
published in 2016, a Paula Wiseman Books from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

It’s an Olympic year, which makes this crazy story even more fitting. The 1904 summer games were held in Saint Louis, Missouri, and featured the first Olympic marathon held in America. But when you hear the words “Olympic marathon” you will assuredly have in mind something wildly different from what took place.

the wildest race ever interior meghan mccarthy

32 runners participated in an insanely rule-breaking, health-busting series of hijinks that’s nearly unbelievable when compared to today’s race. Wow. Enjoy this true story, humorously-illustrated, with kids ages 6 and up. Lengthy Author’s Notes add more detail.

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Are We There Yet?, by Nina Laden and Adam McCauley
published in 2016 by Chronicle Books

Finally, summer is road-trip time, thus it’s time for hearing that endless, mind-numbing question, “Are We There Yet?”

Here’s a solution: Pack this book along for the ride!

Mom and son are heading to Grandma’s. Nearly the entire text of this book consists of speech bubbles which begin practically in the drive way: Are we there yet? No.

are we there yet? interior laden and mccauley

The reallio-coolio aspect of the book involves spying elements from the boy’s room and from scenes along the way which crop up in subsequent pictures, and bits from later pictures which you realize you’ve seen before.  Once you get going on this, you will notice more..and more…and more. Extreme cleverness and a great way to wait until we’re there for ages 5 and older. 

 

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It’s Earth Day tomorrow, and Poetry Month all April long, so this slim volume of poems by Wendell Berry, one of our most eloquent spokesmen for the respectful care of the Earth, seemed like the perfect collection to share with you today.

terrapin and other poems cover imageTerrapin And Other Poems, by Wendell Berry, illustrated by Tom Pohrt
published in 2014 by Counterpoint Press

As my blog title indicates, these poems are not only for children. In fact, I have no idea that Berry intended them for children per se. According to the book jacket, it was artist Tom Pohrt who set about collecting pieces by Berry that he deemed especially accessible to children and creating initial sketches to accompany them. In time, he and Berry collaborated in order to deepen Pohrt’s knowledge of the flora and fauna for his watercolor illustrations.

All that to say — this is a volume for all ages. The briefest poems in the book are only a couple of lines long, while others extend quite beyond that. Some of these gems will spark an interest in even very young children — a reflection on a rabbit caught in the rain; a musing about the first person ever to whistle.

terrapin and other poems illustration1 tom pohrt

The poem which gives its name to the collection, The Terrapin, is a delightful piece for children with its commentary on a fellow who is always at home and who “pokes along” with “no map and no suitcase” because he can never really get lost! No matter where he wanders, he is “always home.”

Other pieces incorporate expressions and crafting that obviously require more heft than a 2-year-old can muster. Some will be best appreciated by middle-graders and older, making it a nice volume to grow into.

terrapin and other poems interior berry and pohrt

Berry’s habits of observing and keenly appreciating the natural world mark these poems. They are written by one who listens intently and snuffs in the odor of forests and feels the companionship of unelectrified, velvet nights. There’s a down-to-earth sense about them, a muck-on-the-boots, frost-nipped-face feel, rather than anything artificially romantic.

A snake swells with the body of a mouse. Trees are planted in the hopes they “may live when I/ no longer rise in the mornings/ to be pleased by the green of them/ shining…” A calf is birthed, and a squirrel met whose terrapin and other poems illustration tom pohrtragged tail testifies to a time when “he should have hurried more than he did.” Glimpses and gazings at the real, natural world.

We have Tom Pohrt to thank for this collection, and what is more, for his elegant, captivating watercolor paintings that fill each page with such grace and beauty. It is a felicitous partnership.

Everything about this book works together to slow us down and draw our minds and aesthetic tastebuds to the detail and expanse, stillness and music, temporal and eternal, ever on display in Nature. 

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