Tag: nature

Glow by W.H. Beck

Glow by WH Beck

Glow: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights by W. H. Beck (InfoSoup)

This nonfiction picture book invites young readers to explore the world of bioluminescence. Set against black backgrounds these glowing creatures pop on the page. The book not only shows different organisms that glow, but also explains why they glow too. Children will learn the terms for the chemicals that allow the light to be created and also see that there are some creatures who glow but no one knows quite why. Filled with dazzling photographs, this is a book that will fly off the shelves of public libraries as kids are hooked by the fish on the cover.

Beck has the book written at two levels. The larger font offers a less specific look at the organisms themselves and therefore a simpler experience. The smaller font allows readers to learn more about each creature. More information on each is also found at the end of the book where size, Latin name, and the depth they live at is given for each. This is a book that is engaging and fascinating. The text is restrained and focused, offering enough information to appeal but never standing in the way of the dazzling creatures themselves.

The photographs in the book are exceptional. Each shows the light of the creature against a black background, allowing that creature attention by the reader. The photos were taken by several different photographers, yet they make for a cohesive book thanks to their similar nature and the beauty they depict. I particularly enjoyed the firefly photo and the glowing shoreline.

An awesome book that is sure to appeal to children who enjoy nature and bizarre creatures, this is a winning science book for public libraries. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from HMH Books for Young Readers.

What in the World? by Nancy Raines Day

What in the World by Nancy Raines Day

What in the World?: Numbers in Nature by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (InfoSoup)

In this rhyming counting book, the concept of numerical sets is introduced. The book opens asking “What in the world comes one by one?” It then answers, explaining that the moon, your nose and your mouth come in singles. Then the book counts upwards, each time asking the question of what comes in that set and answering it. The book ends by looking up at the stars and the infinity of them. It invites young readers to start to think about the patterns in the natural world around them.

Day has created a rhyme that makes this book an engaging mix of poetry and science. As the rhyme dances along, the book will inspire conversation and thinking of more things that come in that type of set. The book is wisely limited to a coastal area where a young boy plays, dangling his toes and fingers in the water, sets of ten.

The art is simple enough to allow this book to be both a counting book and a book about sets. Smaller children will merrily count the nine spines on the back of a fish while older children will start to think about other things in their world that match the set. The digital art is bright colored, and cheery.

An engaging math book that can be read at different levels, this rhyming science book will be enjoyed by several ages of child. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

Review: Amazing Places by Lee Bennett Ho

Amazing Places by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Amazing Places selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet and Christy Hale (InfoSoup)

This collection of fourteen poems celebrate various places throughout the United States. The poems celebrate moments spent in these places, from a visit to Chinatown in San Francisco to camping in the Denali National Forest. Each area has its own flavor, captured both in words and in the rich illustrations that accompany each poem. There is a dynamic mix of nature and man-made places that take the reader on a journey that will inspire future visits and exploration.

The poets included in this anthology are exceptional and include Nikki Grimes, John Bruchac, Janet S. Wong, Alma Flor Ada, J. Patrick Lewis, and Prince Redcloud. The diversity of these authors is exceptional and their voices weave together into a rich tapestry that remind all readers that this is what our nation is all about. The beauty of these different perspectives on these beloved parts of our nation adds yet another layer to the effectiveness of these poems. More information on each place is offered at the end of the book.

The illustrations are rich and filled with diversity too. Some images evoke nature and the movement of water and wind while others are filled with fine lines that create very realistic and detailed images. People of different races filled the pages, none of them placed in the more stereotypical settings but instead diversity is expanded as children explore museums and sites from different backgrounds than their own.

Chock full of diversity on a variety of levels, this book embraces the rich tapestry of America. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Lee & Low Books Inc.

Review: North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette

North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette

North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette, illustrated by Claudia McGehee (InfoSoup)

A girl tells about her grandmother who is not like other grandmas. She dresses in Grandpa’s old flannel shirts and she’s bony. She doesn’t bake cookies or pies, but she does take long walks out in nature. With her trusty walking stick, the two of them explore the little paths near Grandma’s house. Every season there are new things to see, things in the garden to do. The two love winter best of all, especially winter nights with a full moon when they explore the snowy woods. Grandma may not be like other grandma’s but she’s pretty special and a north woods girl to the quick.

Bissonette captures the spirit of a north woods woman beautifully in her picture book. From the no-fuss long grey braid, the flannel shirts, the stout boots to the way that nature speaks to her and that she knows it so well. This book is a celebration of the north woods too, the ways that the woods changes in different seasons, the animals that fill it, and the glory of a winter woods.

McGehee’s scratchboard illustrations have a rustic beauty. The colors are deep and lovely, and they capture the spirit of the woods. In fact, there are moments when you can almost smell the pines and the grass. There is a subtle multiculturalism here too with the little girl’s darker skin tone and curly hair. The pages are crowded with details of the woods, filled with animals and insects.

A lovely look at the northern woods, this picture book celebrates unique grandmothers living in a unique place. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Review: The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (InfoSoup)

Suzy knows that things happen for a reason. She loves nature and all of the facts about it and the way that science makes sense. But when her best friend drowns, Suzy just can’t make sense of it. They had fought before Franny left on vacation and now there is no way for Suzy to fix that. Suzy retreats into silence, refusing to speak to her parents or to anyone at school. As Suzy searches for a reason, she discovers that Franny might have been stung by a jellyfish. It is up to Suzy to prove that that is what happened and to let everyone see that there was a cause for Franny’s death. Filled with natural wonder and tangible grief, this book is an elegant and powerful look at how one child copes with loss.

Benjamin writes about nature with such awe, sharing facts about animals as if they were precious jewels. The facts about jellyfish alone are profound and concerning, allowing readers to understand Suzy’s fascination with them. Yet though these facts are in the book, it is Suzy’s inability to cope with reality that shines. Her unwillingness to accept that death can be an accident without any reason at all will speak to all readers.

Suzy is a great character. Filled with a powerful and all-encompassing grief, she becomes silent and yet somehow does not withdraw from life. Instead her silence allows her time to be more creative, more thoughtful about the loss she has experienced even while she is in denial about what has happened. Benjamin also beautifully tackles the grieving process, mingling it with the difficulties of middle school. Filled with flashbacks about the changing friendship of Franny and Suzy, this book addresses the way that even best friends grow apart.

Beautiful and luminous, this book is a powerful look at grief, loss and the way that we process our lives. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Where Do I End and You Begin? by Shulamith Oppenheim

Where Do I End and You Begin by Shulamith Oppenheim

Where Do I End and You Begin? by Shulamith Oppenheim, illustrated by Monique Felix (InfoSoup)

This poetic book asks deep questions about the interconnectedness of life and nature. It begins with a cat asking where it ends and its tail begins. How about a shell and a snail? Or a branch and a tree? Perhaps the sky and the sea? Each pairing gets readers thinking about whether they can tell where one stops and the other begins. Some of them are arguably doable, like the sky and sea where a boundary is evident, others though are real questions whether emotional like a hug or physical like the snail and its shell. This is a book filled with unanswerable questions that will get readers thinking about the importance of all types of connections in our lives.

The poem at the heart of this picture book is particularly beautifully written. It uses items that are familiar to children and then guides them to think about them in a new and surprising way, examining the connections. While the poem could be read very literally at times, other pairings in the book make sure that the questions are larger than the objects themselves, lifting it up to include the interconnectedness of all of us on the planet. This grand book is sure to start interesting discussions in classrooms and families.

The illustrations by Felix are delicate and luminous. They shine on the white background, interconnect with one another and play together too. The cat is found on the next page, walking the stair within the snail’s shell. A boy and girl are present on many of the pages too, exploring the way that humans fit into the world as well.

A superb picture book that asks profound questions and then celebrates the world and our connections with it. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder (InfoSoup)

Luna lives in a swamp that was formed when a dam formed in the river by fallen trees. She lives with her mother, grandmother and little sister Willow in a village on stilts above the swamp water. Everyone in the village knows not to drink the swamp water, particularly the water near the slick. But when Luna has Willow out on her boat with her, water accidentally gets into her mouth. The water was helped by a creature who lives deep in the muck of the swamp. Now Willow only has a few weeks to live, since everyone exposed to the water dies at the exact same time after drinking it. Luna is desperate to find a way to save her sister, even going so far as to offer herself to the creature under the water. But that creature too has her own story that is wrapped around Luna and Willow’s. It too is a story of sisters and also a loss so deep that it poisons. In her desperation can Luna find a way to save her sister?

Crowder writes so beautifully. The setting of the swamp comes alive with her words, the creatures of the swamp, the trees, the colors, the smells and the subtle beauty. She takes what could have been a desolate poison swamp and instead wraps it in beauty and wonder. The magic that permeates the story is deep and dark, and keeps the humans trapped in the swamp with it. It’s lovely to see a fantasy book use magic in a way that is twisted and corrupted and yet entirely organic and realistic too.

The parallel stories of the two sets of sisters is delicately balanced. There is the main story of Luna and Willow, two human sisters who adore one another and the place they live. Then there are the water sprite sisters, Perdy and Gia. The sprites are trying to leave this world and build a door to another place that doesn’t have humans in it. Gia spends her time near the door, waiting for it to be complete while Perdy explores far and wide. But disaster happens once the door is completed and Gia is unable to call Perdy home fast enough.

Lushly written and filled with details that bring the swamp to life, this novel is a magnificent fantasy read. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.