Review: Into the Outdoors by Susan Gal

into the outdoors

Into the Outdoors by Susan Gal

Learn your prepositions in the fresh air with this book that takes us up into the mountains and down into the forest.  A family heads out on a camping trip.  Along the way they go over a bridge and under the trees.  Once they reach the woods, they head out on a hike, following a trail around the lake, across a stream, and between some large rocks.  They return to their campsite and the fire, where the animals they saw on their hike have followed them back.  The entire book is playful and fun.

Gal has managed to structure a fine little story out of her prepositional phrases.  The family moves through their day, exploring the natural world.  While the book would be of use with prepositions and prepositional phrases, it is also a gem of a short read all on its own. 

Gal’s illustrations lift this book up, giving it a modern freshness that is not without whimsy.  From the very friendly and approachable animals, to the grin of the baby riding in its sling, this book has a merry and jaunty feel that one gets outdoors.

An enjoyable prepositional outdoor hike, this cheerful title will be embraced as a learning tool but also as a great bedtime read.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.

Review: May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

may b

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

May has grown up living out on her family’s homestead on the Kansas prairie.   When money gets tight, she is sent to become live-in help for other homesteaders, but just until Christmas.  May finds herself in a small sod house fifteen miles away from her own.  The young wife, who is almost May’s age, is unhappy on the prairie and runs away.  The husband heads after her and neither return.  May is left alone on the prairie where at first the days are lovely, sunny and warm and she enjoys the freedom.  Then winter comes, and May is alone on the prairie with a dwindling food supply, just a little wood for heat, and only the prairie itself for company.  This book written in verse is a look at the dangers, hardship and courage of homesteading.

Rose has written a book that pays homage to the Little House on the Prairie books and reads a lot like The Long Winter.  At the same time, it also has a stark reality about it that makes it gripping.  The format of a verse novel works particularly well here as most of the story is May’s reaction to her situation.  What could have been lengthy treatises on loneliness instead are verses that speak to the harrowing nature of abandonment. 

The book also deals with May’s dyslexia which makes her almost unable to read.  She had one teacher, shown in flashbacks, who treated her with respect and worked with her.  But after that, another teacher arrived who used shame to try to get May to learn to read.  It is the story of an obviously bright and very resourceful girl with dyslexia.  Her struggles to read strike a delicate balance in the book, showing an inner battle that plays against the external forces at work.

A taut, frightening novel of solitary confinement set in wide-open spaces, this book would work well with reluctant readers or as a classroom read.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.