Posted in early readers, fiction, non-fiction, picture books, poetry, recipes, tagged birds, book reviews, botany, children's literature, gardening, Michelle Obama, nature, photography, picture books, plants, ponds, robins, seeds, spring, wildlife on April 10, 2017|
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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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Posted in non-fiction, tagged book reviews, children's literature, conservation, Ernest Thompson Seton, new mexico, nonfiction, wildlife, william grill, wolves on October 7, 2016|
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The Wolves of Currumpaw, written and illustrated by William Grill
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books
In 1898, Ernest Thompson Seton published his classic collection of stories, Wild Animals I Have Known. Seton was a gnarly outdoorsman, a British naturalist, whose reminiscences of his encounters with animals are Jack Londonesque in their raw, wild, matter-of-factness. It’s a book that was on every boy’s nightstand for generations, though it has gone a bit out of fashion lately.
The first story in Seton’s collection – Lobo: The King of Currumpaw — has now been retold and illustrated by the phenomenally-talented British artist, William Grill, whose first book, Shackleton’s Journey, won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal, and also won my heart. My review of it is here. Grill has added to Seton’s story with further research into Seton himself, the era in which he lived, and the locale of New Mexico.
Old Lobo was the leader of a pack of wolves whose “deep howl struck fear through the hearts of ranchmen and farmers” as they awaited the dreaded attacks on their herds of cattle. A bounty was placed on his head, yet over and over, skillful hunters were outmatched by Lobo’s cunning.
Enter Ernest Thompson Seton, whose determination to succeed where others had failed drives him to mercilessly pursue his prey. It’s a tale that will break the hearts of many readers, but keep reading and discover how it also ended up breaking the heart of Seton and steering him into new, conservationist activity.
As expected from Grill, this is a stunningly beautiful book, from the endpapers, blanketed in the vermilion and charcoal colors and patterns of the Navajo, straight through to the illustrated glossary — tidy rows of Grill’s thumbprint-drawings accompanying definitions for this Western vocabulary of snipe and mesa and heifer.
For the story itself, 75 pages long, Grill employs a combination of cinematic sequences – dozens of thumbprint-style images like clicks of the shutter, zooming in on the details; and then grand, double-page, full stops – sweeping vistas of the West sprawling out, arresting our attention, the tiny stature of man and beast shown puny against these imposing landscapes. Grill completely immerses us in this world, this story.
The illustrations are in colored pencil. I love the textures, precision, and sketchbook-feel — the unpolished sense in keeping with the rugged territory, as though we’re seeing what captured Grill’s eye at any given moment. The natural, subdued palette appeals to realism, the tenor of the story, and respects the ability of the reader to settle into a long, sober account, devoid of Disneyfication.
Be aware that this is a true story. Animals die, front and center. For those sturdy enough for that, I highly recommend this remarkable, gorgeous book. Ages perhaps 7 or 8 through Adult.
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Posted in non-fiction, picture books, recipes, tagged biosphere 2, book reviews, children's literature, climate change, cooking, earth day, ecology, environmentalism, fossil fuels, honey bees, nature, picture books, science, wildlife on April 18, 2016|
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Earth Day is coming up this week. I hope you take the opportunity to marvel at the wonderland around us and resolve to learn more about proper stewardship of this precious, interconnected home of ours.
For those of you in the Twin Cities, I’d also like to draw your attention to a lecture co-sponsored by the MacLaurin Institute and the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Dr. Katherine Hayhoe will be speaking on “Climate Change: Facts, Fictions, and the Christian Faith” on Thursday, April 21. You can find out more details at the link here.
I’ve got a whole stack of excellent books today. I’ll proceed in order from least to most technical, and end with a gorgeous new cookbook to inspire all of us!
This is the Earth, by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander, paintings by Wendell Minor
published in 2016 by Harper
Wendell Minor’s magnificent paintings are the first thing you’ll notice in this gorgeous survey of the eons of life on Earth. Wall-to-wall color embraces us beginning with the clean, unspoiled beauty of savanna, river, and sky, explosive with wildlife, plant life, sparkling water, pure air.
As humans make homes and lives for themselves and increasingly subject the land to industrial spoilage and environmental damage, the pictures are not so gladsome. But the story doesn’t end there. The authors continue their poetic account of our interactions with Earth into the present, when better care-taking is practiced and begins to heal the planet.
It’s a tender, beautiful appeal towards greener living that is perfect for children ages 3 or 4 and up — the ideal time to begin forming sustainable habits.
Nature’s Day: Discover the World of Wonder on Your Doorstep, by Kay Maguire, illustrated by Danielle Kroll
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions
UK botanist Kay Maguire and Brooklyn-based artist Danielle Kroll have teamed up to create this lavish, beautiful guide to nature lore through the seasons. As with every Wide Eyed Edition, the production quality is impeccable. Everything is lovely!
Each season hosts its own glories, and they’re parceled out here in tidbits of information and charming, fresh illustrations. Learn about the fascinating Dawn Chorus of springtime. Investigate the vegetable garden in summer. Snoop in the autumnal leaf litter to see what’s lurking there. Check for surprising signs of life in wintertime. And so much more!
80 over-sized pages of beauty and wonder to meander through again and again. An inspiration for gardening, nature walks, trips to the farmer’s market, and appreciation for the natural world. Ages 4 and up.
Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth, by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, illustrated by Molly Bang
published in 2014 by Blue Sky Press
This is the fourth book in Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm’s fascinating series on sunlight. What an astounding star that sun of ours is!
Here they explain how oil, coal, and gas — fossil fuels — were formed, like tiny treasure chests with precious supplies of energy from the sun trapped inside of them, then buried deep in the earth.
And how, fairly recently, humans discovered those treasure chests and unlocked their potential by burning them to power our world. And how the rapidity of our use of these fossil fuels is affecting Earth’s climate like never before due to the enormous release of carbon dioxide that is occurring.
I am not a scientist. But Penny Chisholm is an MIT professor and Molly Bang has an uncanny knack of writing these complex facts in accessible language that even I can understand! This book has been vetted by my dear son, a PhD student in Environmental Microbiology, and some of his environmental cohorts and gets all thumbs up. Grab it to share with kids ages 5 or 6 and up. You adults will benefit from it, too!
A Warmer World: From Polar Bears to Butterflies, How Climate Change Affects Wildlife, by Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Jamie Hogan
published in 2012 by Charlesbridge
I suspect most of us have heard about the difficulties polar bears are having in the arctic with the changes in the duration of sea ice which decrease the length of their hunting season.
But what about the impact of climate change on penguins and walruses. On butterflies and fish? The interconnectedness of the natural world is explained in a nature-notebook format in this informative book. You will learn how changes that affect plant life, water temperature, and ice conditions, go on to impact a wide collection of animals.
With its succinct, clear, text and appealing illustrations geared to kids ages 7 and up this book shows some of the furry and feathered reasons we work to limit climate change.
What’s the Buzz?:Keeping Bees in Flight, by Merrie-Ellen Wilcox
published in 2015 by Orca Book Publishers
Author Merrie-Ellen Wilcox loves bees and raises them in six hives at her British Columbia home. Her enthusiasm for this hard-working insect shines through in this book that covers all things Bee.
Learn about the amazing bee, its life, work, and hive-home. Discover the astoundingly-huge job bees do as pollinators for enormous amounts of crops — apples, almonds, blueberries and more — that we eat every day, as well as the way they aid other species such as bears and fish. Find out all about the delicious honey bees produce and the many ways honey and beeswax benefit us.
Finally, and sadly, learn the enormous problems bees face today. This will come as no surprise to most of you, but oh, it is distressing! How can you become a Bee-Friendly Kid? A number of realistic steps are listed here which makes this book one of the most practical of the batch today. We can make a difference! Highly-accessible writing and lots of color photographs make this a great read for ages 9 and up.
Inside Biosphere 2: Earth Science Under Glass, by Mary Kay Carson, photographs by Tom Uhlman
published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The ability to conduct controlled experiments in the great outdoors is enormously difficult, obviously. So many variables complicate the findings.
Enter Biosphere 2, a massive, glass-enclosed structure containing an amazingly-devised rain forest, desert ocean (yes, you’ll find out what that is), savannah, hillsides of soil, and teams of cool scientists researching important questions.
How do rainforests respond to ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide? How will climate change alter the acidity of water and what difference does that make? How are Earth’s landscapes reshaped by climate change? What’s the best way to harvest rainfall?
This lengthy account is superbly written and documented for budding science enthusiasts who are chomping at the bit to take their place among the people asking these questions, devising experiments to find answers, and developing policies for the long-term good of Earth-dwellers. Thorough and intriguing for ages 11 to adult.
The Forest Feast For Kids, by Erin Gleeson
published in 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers
A couple of years ago, Erin Gleeson published her bestselling cookbook, The Forest Feast. Lavishly decorated with her lovely watercolor illustrations and filled with simple, fresh, vegetarian recipes, it charmed the socks off of everybody.
Now, with the same touch of beauty and simplicity, she’s written an edition for kids. And it is sooo lovely! Look, here are the end-papers:
The pages of this book are bursting with gorgeous, full-color photos. Recipes with hand-lettering and watercolor flourishes cover everything from Pomegranate Hot Cider to Butternut Quesadillas and Plum Tartlets. All of them contain only a few, simple ingredients. Here is food that is a feast for the eyes as well as the palette. Food prepared as a gift of love and care. An artistic endeavor in which we appreciate the colors, textures, and flavors of fresh food.
A beautiful choice for boys and girls ages 7 and up. It would make quite a good birthday gift, I think!
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Posted in fiction, non-fiction, picture books, tagged book reviews, children's literature, ice skating, picture books, snow, wildlife, winter, yeti on December 21, 2015|
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North Shore light house, taken by my cousin, Lou Walters.
Winter arrives tomorrow, and I’m hoping it blows in with yardfuls of snow and nose-nipping cold!! Because I love winter! And here in Minneapolis we’ve had none if it yet.
Even if you don’t share my enthusiasm for the season, you’ll love these sparkling winter stories, all well-suited to the youngest of book-lovers:
Toys Meet Snow, by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
published in 2015 by Schwartz & Wade Books
The subtitle for this book reads “being the wintertime adventures of a curious stuffed buffalo, a sensitive plush stingray, and a book-loving rubber ball.” Sounds like the line-up for a Pixar film!
This unlikely trio belongs to a little gal away on vacation. That means they’re home alone for the first snowfall. Left to their own devices, they set out to explore this fluffy white stuff. It takes teamwork just to make it out the door…
…then creative thinking to figure out what snow is and how to properly enjoy it. A good time is had by all.
The three vivid personalities of these toys bring delightful punch to this simple story, while Zelinsky’s brilliant illustrations exude both warm camaraderie and sparkly, wintertime beauty. Jolly fun for ages 2 and up.
Snow, written and illustrated by Sam Usher
first U.S. edition 2015 by Templar Books, Candlewick
Coming from the UK is this total delight, a magical combination of pristine and riotously imaginative.
A fresh snowfall has blanketed the world and if you’ve ever wondered how that feels, I point you to this one, miraculous spread:
That perfect, hushed, crystalline foreverness stretched across the world.
The little boy in this story is antsy as all get out to be the first one in the neighborhood to trek sumptuously through the milky smoothness. BUT he’s got to wait for Granddad, and Granddad has not one hurry-up bone in his body.
In a series of pages that magnificently capture the withering nature of waiting, this little guy watches the entire world, seemingly, traipse through the snowfield ahead of him.
Astonishingly, when he and Granddad do finally arrive at the local snow-playground, they have not missed out on a speck of fun. In fact, there’s an extremely surprising crowd gathered there, and Granddad, turns out, is a rare good sport, adding merrily to the mayhem.
Sam Usher is a new illustrator to me but oh, I went on his website and oh-oh-oh I want his book Refuge.
Currently I can buy it for $67 from some third party on Amazon so that is not happening, but if the picture book gods are listening — please bring this book to America. Thank you. Meanwhile, share Snow with ages 2 and up.
Supertruck, written and illustrated by Stephen Savage
published in 2015; a Neal Porter Book from Roaring Brook Press
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s supertruck!
On an average day in the city, the plain-and-simple garbage truck with his nerdy spectacles humbly goes about his business, while the flashy trucks nab the gritty and glamorous roles.
But when a blizzard socks in the city with snow, he sneaks into an obscure garage and emerges with a new identity! Watch him clear streets in a single bound! Heroic, conspiratorial, gobs of fun for Under-two and up.
No Yeti Yet, written and illustrated by Mary Ann Fraser
published in 2015 by Peter Pauper Press, Inc.
Snow blankets the universe. Icicles fringe the barn. Wind swirls eddies of snow into the air. It’s a perfect day for a yeti hunt.
Two siblings bundle up, grab a camera to document their discovery, and head out into the great outdoors, careening down icy hills, pushing through blustery winds, zinging across frozen ponds, tiptoeing into blue-frosted caves.
Everywhere, their eagle eyes search for a yeti, but not a one do they spot.
However. You are probably a more alert sort of person and therefore you might just spot that yeti lurking in every scene!
When hunters and hunted finally do come face to face…Yikes! And Skedaddle! This raucous, happy tale is a bit like Round Two of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Fabulously high-spirited fun for ages 2 and up.
Bear & Hare: Snow!, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett
originally published 2014 in Great Britain; published in the U.S. in 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Bear & Hare are two great pals whom we’ve met before on a fishing expedition. Fiascos seem to dog their steps but in the end their warm friendship wins the day.
This time, the snow is falling and Hare is elated. Hare loves snow! Bear…not so much. Dear Bear gives it the old college try, but snow just doesn’t seem to suit him. Until…he finally finds his perfect snow activity.
Minimal text and Emily Gravett’s enthusiastic illustrations, bounding with personality, humor, and happiness make a warm-as-cocoa story for ages Under-Two and up.
Secrets of Winter, by Carron Brown & Georgina Tee, illustrated by Bee Johnson
published in 2015 by Kane Miller
This is one of a tantalizing series of books called Shine-A-Light books. Arm yourselves with a flashlight and a darkish spot to snuggle in — under the blankets perhaps, or in a room lit only by the Christmas tree.
The simple text walks us through the woods looking for wildlife on a snowy evening. It’s a bustling place, winter birds winging towards shelter, red squirrels peeking into hollows, fish swimming under ice, deer browsing on evergreens.
The magic happens when you shine a light from behind the page to reveal hidden animals. Wow! So thrilling to discover who is sleeping under rocks, hiding amongst ivy, or tucked behind snowdrifts.
Here’s a picture of how the page looks without the flashlight…
I found these images at thelionisabookworm at blogspot
…and voila! the same page with light revealing the bunny.
End pages tell a little more about the tricky ways animals cope with the cold days and nights of winter. A blast for ages 2 and up.
Little Red Gliding Hood, by Tara Lazar, pictures by Troy Cummings
published in 2015 by Random House
Children who know their fairy tales and nursery rhymes will love this wintery mash-up starring gobs of familiar friends. The opening page whirls us directly into a snowy Candyland forest, with Little Red gliding along the curving, frozen river past gingerbread cottages, towering beanstalks, and Rapunzel’s tower.
Red’s skates are a bit worn out, so she’s highly motivated to win the upcoming Pairs Skating Competition with its prize of Brand-New Skates. But who will be her partner? Everyone seems paired off already except — uh oh — the Big Bad Wolf. Fun and jolly, with candy-colored, immensely kid-friendly illustrations. Ages 4 and up.
And a happy first day of winter to one and all!
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Posted in non-fiction, picture books, poetry, tagged a a milne, Beatrix Potter, bilingual books, book reviews, children's literature, children's poetry, disabilities, endangered wildlife, geography, Ghana, illustration, inuksuk, Inuktitut language, maps, multicultural books, nonfiction, picture books, poetry, the arctic, the elephant man, The United States, wildlife, winnie-the-pooh on November 16, 2015|
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Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
published in 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
This picture book is a dream, pure and simple.
It’s the true story of how a young Canadian veterinarian adopted a bear cub as he was on his way to active duty in World War I, and of how that bear, named Winnipeg, or Winnie for short, became the dear friend of a little English boy named Christopher Robin and the inspiration for that lovable Bear of Little Brain, Winnie-the-Pooh.
The author is a descendant of that Canadian vet and she reels off this sweet story with exquisite, storyteller’s ease.
And then! Sophie Blackall picks up her art tools and delivers perfect illustrations — tender, clean, utterly captivating watercolors that pull us irresistibly into this world and into friendly companionship with one frowsy bear. Every page is as delicious as a cream puff.
A miniature album of historic photos and documents is included. It’s one of the loveliest books of the year. Don’t miss it, for ages 3 through Adult.
Counting Lions:Portraits from the Wild, by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Stephen Walton
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
Stunningly beautiful portraits of wildlife by illustrator Stephen Walton will stop you in your tracks from your first glimpse at this book’s cover, right through to the end. That’s not a photograph, friends. It’s a charcoal drawing.
Walton treats us to exquisite portraits of ten different animals who are threatened to some degree. His painstaking drawings convey strength, majesty, tenderness, and such beauty. Textures — the wrinkly hide of an elephant, a luxurious mane, the heavy velvet of a tiger’s paw, prickly grasses and downy feathers — are intensely realistic, yet there is a lovely quietness to every page.
Short snatches of poetic text draw our attention to some uniqueness of each creature, but mainly leave us to wonder over their loveliness. End pages contain further notes on each species, what their protected status is, and of course, in this book about counting, an estimate of just how many of these glories we have left.
A gorgeous piece of work that spans the age ranges — 2 to 100.
Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box, written and illustrated by David McPhail
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
This charming biography of Beatrix Potter focuses on her love of painting, beginning when she was a child.
Sketching and painting the menagerie of animals that made their way to her nursery, and the idyllic countrysides she saw on their summer holidays in Scotland, Beatrix became an accomplished artist. Her sympathy for a sick child became the impetus for the writing of her first little tale of Peter Rabbit.
Brief and eminently accessible, this will absorb the attention of children as young as 2. McPhail’s characteristically warm, soft paintings envelop us in a world of color and beauty.
It’s Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday next year. She is one of those authors that I so dearly wish today’s parents would introduce to their children. I have a funny feeling that far too many know a vague-something about Peter Rabbit…and that’s about it. It’s worth your while to make your way through her entire bookshelf — many of them are surprisingly lengthy.
How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Steve Jenkins is a genius at presenting information about the natural world in uncommonly clever, enticing ways, and here he’s done it again.
Get tips from the masters — from humpback whales to ant lions — on how to accomplish tasks such as repelling insects, building nests, or getting some dinner. (Please note that said dinner may be a wildebeest or a mouthful of live fish.)
Step by step instructions make it oh-so-easy to achieve success! Jenkins’ beautiful paper collages are there to help walk us through these feats. End pages contain more information on each one of the highlighted animals. It’s an invitation to wonder at the amazing capacities of the wildlife in our world. Ages 5 and up.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, written by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
published in 2015 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Journey to Ghana, West Africa, where a little boy named Emmanuel is born. With just one leg. And a father who abandoned him and his mother.
Watch his mother, fittingly named Comfort, raise her boy to believe he could live an active, purposeful life, and watch Emmanuel take up the challenge and go, go, go.
As a young man, Emmanuel decides to work for the equal treatment of all disabled persons in his nation, to improve their opportunities and remove some of the stinging obstacles he faced. Watch him do this…with a bicycle.
It’s an inspiring story of hard work and success, illustrated in strong, stylish mixed media by Sean Qualls. An Author’s Note tells more about Emmanuel’s activism. Ages 4 and up.
The 50 States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 Fact-Filled Maps, written and researched by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sol Linero
published in 2015 by Wide Eyed Editions
Here’s another brilliant book of maps from Wide Eyed press. This time, we’re touring the U.S.
Browse your way through fifty, extraordinarily well-designed, eyeball-pleasing, two-page spreads and learn a bunch of interesting this-and-that about each of our states.
Tidbits about famous places and people, animals that make their homes here, foods that originated there, pepper the pages with so much engaging info, you could spend hours and hours lingering and learning.
There’s a definite, contemporary leaning to what’s included here which makes it more exciting for young people. Where were emoticons invented? What state is home for Tomie DePaola? Where can you buy a Voodoo Doughnut? And never fear, you can also spot our national parks, get a glimpse of every state capitol building, learn the state capitals and all that other, regular, jazz.
Another example of the stunning design coming from Wide Eyed. This is brilliant for ages 5 to Adult.
Daylight Starlight Wildlife, written and illustrated by Wendell Minor
published in 2015 by Nancy Paulsen Books
In this engaging book for very young children, master-illustrator Wendell Minor draws our attention to animals that like to be out and about in daytime, and those who prefer the dark of night.
Such a simple concept, brilliantly executed. Written beautifully, without talking down, Minor communicates interesting bits of information accessible to the Under-Two set, then illustrates the pages in a flood of gorgeous color, setting each animal in its stunning environment.
His author blurb says, “Wendell Minor’s mission is to inspire children to go out into the fields, woods, and mountains to see wildlife in its natural habitat and gain a positive perspective on the world’s beauty.” Well. Don’t we love him?! This is a fantastic book for doing just that.
Elephant Man, by Mariangela Di Fiore, illustrated by Hilde Hodnefjeld, translated by Rosie Hedger
published originally in Norwegian in 2013; first English edition 2015 by Annick Press
I can feel emotion welling up just thinking about this title. What a brave subject to tackle in a picture book.
Most of you will have heard of the Elephant Man, a young British man afflicted with severe deformities, who lived in the late 1800s.
Here is his story, written in such honesty and forthrightness: his completely normal body at birth, and his gradual, inexplicable disfigurements and losses; the devastating early death of his mother, and cruelty of nearly everyone else he encountered; his stint on display in a freak show, and the desperation that finally drove him to wear a bag over his head in public to avoid the screams of horror.
There are a couple of kind people in this story as well, and one incredible hero — the Elephant Man himself. Illustrated in striking collage and mixed media, this book will deeply impact your heart. Includes an Afterword and historic photographs. Ages 7 and up.
Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems/Aleteo y Zumbido: Poemas de Animales, written and illustrated by Julie Paschkis
published in 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
Julie Paschkis is one of my favorite artists, and just look at the stunning cover of her new book!
Dancing, poetic thoughts about more than a dozen familiar animals, written in both Spanish and English, tickle our imaginations. Such tasty words!
And of course, every page is a glory! Thrumming with beauty and life. So much movement, sometimes whispery-graceful, sometimes bounding with joy.
She’s also incorporated piquant words in her illustrations, intriguingly meshing the visual and textual forms of art. An Author’s Note describes how Paschkis fell in love with the Spanish language and went about creating this book. A delight for ages Under-Two through Adult.
An Inuksuk Means Welcome, words and art by Mary Wallace
published in 2015 by Owlkids Books
Coming to us from Canada is this beautiful look at the Arctic world and the unique stone markers there called inuksuit.
For thousands of years these tremendous towers have been built to guide travelers in a landmark-less region of unrelenting snow and ice. Mary Wallace guides us through a short survey of the different shapes and messages an inuksuk can have, as she also introduces us to life as it’s lived in this truly awesome zone.
Bold paintings, pulsating with color and strength, dominate the pages, welcoming us into a tremendously appealing world. There is very little text, but it includes Inuktitut words, their pronunciations, and the way they are written in the Inuktitut alphabet. It’s a handsome, captivating glimpse of another culture, for ages 2 and up.
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Posted in fiction, picture books, tagged apples, autumn, book reviews, children's literature, dried-apple dolls, nature, outdoor play, picture books, seasons, wildlife on October 12, 2015|
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Fall officially arrived weeks ago, but just now the maples in my backyard are ablaze with that glorious color we love.
Here are five lovely picture books that capture the beauty and transience of autumn.
Say It! by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
originally published in 1980; published with new illustrations in 2015 by Candlewick Press
This enduring story by Zolotow simply lets us eavesdrop on a conversation between a mom and her little girl as they walk together on a “golden, windy autumn day” Kicking up leaves, watching the spattered reflections in a pond, soaking up the chill air, blowing milkweed seeds about…it’s just the sort of leisurely, nature-infused walk that’s good for the soul.
All along the way, the little girl begs her mother to, “Say it!” Mother responds with exuberant, language-lush exclamations about the beauty of the day, but that’s not quite what this child is waiting for. What are the magic words she wants to hear?
Charlotte Voake’s new illustrations surround us in a blowsy, apricot-warm, swirl, with her marvelously gentle, carefree line sweeping and dipping right along with those scurrying leaves. A dear story for ages 3 and up.
Baby Bear Counts One, written and illustrated by Ashley Wolff
published in 2013 by Beach Lane Books
Ashley Wolff’s bold, richly-colored prints will draw you into this storybook like the aroma of a robust cup of coffee, or maybe the waft of hot chocolate if that’s your preference.
Mama bear and her busy cub are almost ready to den up for the season. As they lumber around their woodsy neighborhood, Baby Bear hears many curious noises — kerploppings and honkings, thockity-thockings and whappings. What are they? Who is making them?
As Mama introduces him to the various animals who are all preparing for winter, Baby Bear counts them, and you can, too, until finally we arrive at some wintertime visitors that are too many to count.
Gorgeous illustrations and a perfect text for young children, ages under-Two and up.
Winter is Coming, by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche
published in 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Despite the title, this book is a splendid autumn treat, gently walking through the months from September to late November.
The quiet, descriptive narration comes from a young girl, maybe 8 years old, a budding naturalist. With her nature sketchbook and drawing supplies, binoculars and thermos of cocoa, she ventures into the woods to observe the animals preparing for winter. So, right from the get-go, I love the whole notion of this story, the freedom, the out-of-doorsness, the connection to Nature.
As luck would have it, she manages to spy quite a lot of wildlife! Rabbits and chipmunks, yes, but also a skunk family, a bear and her cub, and even a lynx from afar! She tells what she observes and thinks about them in a lyrical, ambling sort of way. That’s the whole text of the book.
Jim LaMarche’s illustrations — acrylics, colored pencil, and opaque ink — are gorgeous, capturing the grandeur, the wonder, the serenity, the chilly atmosphere, the texture of dry grasses and soft fur…just everything. He brings us right into this little glade so we can feel the nip on our cheeks and smell the forest floor.
A beautiful enticement towards the natural world for ages 4 and up.
The Apple Doll, written and illustrated by Elisa Kleven
published in 2007 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Lizzy is starting school this fall, and she’s quite nervous about that. What she mainly loves to do is play imaginative games in the apple tree in her yard with her cat for a companion. Sounds good to me.
Her bright idea is to make a little, rustic doll out of an apple and a twig. She names it Susanna, and plans to take it to school as a secret companion. This does not work out as well as she hopes.
As the days grow colder and Lizzy’s family is busy canning and drying apples for winter, the idea of making a dried-apple doll emerges. Lizzy and her mama work together peeling and soaking, crafting and accessorizing, until her new-and-improved Susanna is ready to return to school.
This time, she’s quite a hit!
Elisa Kleven’s trademark sunshiny, confetti-colored illustrations stream joy through even the wobbliest of Lizzy’s days. Detailed instructions for making your own dried-apple doll are included. Ages 4 and up.
George Flies South, written and illustrated by Simon James
first U.S. edition published in 2011 by Candlewick Press
Winter is on the way. Trees are losing their leaves. Birds are heading south. But George does not feel quite ready to fly.
However!!…when Mom pops off for just a moment to fetch some worms, a sudden whoosh of a breeze takes matters into its own hands, so to speak, lifting George, nest and all, off his limb and twirly-whirly through the air.
From one unexpected landing place to the next, George is carried right along, while his anxious mother valiantly tries to keep up with him and coax him into flying on his own. It’s quite a dicey journey! In the scariest moment of all, George’s nest disintegrates mid-air and…oh dear!…will George get the hang of this flying thing in time?!
Spoiler alert: It’s a happy ending.
An adventurous story with a spicy dash of suspense, delightfully illustrated in Simon James’ energetic, willy-nilly, Quentin Blake-ish style. Ages 3 and up.
There are lots more autumn-themed books in the archives. Search the Subject index under Seasons.
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Posted in non-fiction, picture books, tagged alaska, book reviews, children and nature, children's literature, Fox Island, picture books, Rockwell Kent, wilderness, wildlife on April 24, 2015|
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My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure, written and illustrated by Claudia McGehee
published in 2015 by Little Bigfoot
In 1918, an American painter, Rockwell Kent, and his 9 year old son “Rocky” set off on an adventure –spending seven months in the wilderness of Fox Island, Alaska.
Please, can I do this?!
Seriously, if you have a wilderness-loving bone in your body, the account of their time there will tug on your heart maddeningly!
Spectacular Fox Island
Using letters and journals kept by Rocky and his father, Claudia McGehee describes their life of near-solitude among mountains carpeted with evergreens, bald eagles riding thermals, a small herd of angora goats, and a set of blue fox tamed by the resident trapper, Mr. Olson.
Fox Island by Rockwell Kent from his book: Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska
With home set up in a tiny cedar-plank shed, there aren’t a whole lot of housekeeping duties. Instead the two fill their days with painting and sketching, hiking, beachcombing, storytelling, reading, and playing out of doors.
Cabin by Rockwell Kent from his book Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska
There are a number of startling moments as Rocky habituates to his forest home, and then one doozy of an ill-fated trip in the dory. So it isn’t unbroken tranquility!
Mostly, it’s the story of a magnificent step away — an opportunity to be inspired by and relish untrammeled wilderness — for a lucky boy and his dad.
The book is illustrated in McGehee’s stunning, handsome scratchboard images. So, so beautiful. You can read about her process in an interview here, if you’re interested. The roughly-textured prints, strong lines, boreal subjects, and subdued tints, all convey a sense of grandeur and rugged simplicity. Even the paper it’s printed on and end papers add to the lovely sensory experience.
Highly recommended for ages 5 and up. Perhaps it will pique your interest enough to pick up a copy of Rockwell Kent’s journal: Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska. It looks fascinating to me.
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