See What a Seal Can Do by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Kate Nelms
This nonfiction picture book follows a gray seal through its day. The seal starts off on shore where it is flumping along the sand, seeming slow and sleepy. Then it enters the water and what seemed awkward on land makes it able to swim with incredible grace. As the seal swims, readers learn about their different anatomy, including their ears, whiskers, fins and blubber. At the bottom of the ocean, the seal eats fish and then eats more on its way up to the air again. Returning to the beach, the seal is ready for another nap.
Butterworth truly celebrates this animal in her book. She writes with a mix of prose and poetry, making sure that readers understand how fascinating seals are. Throughout, she uses metaphors to make sure that children relate to the animal. Blubber is compared to a warm blanket. The seaweed at the bottom is a forest. The seal swims like a rocket in the water.
There are many science picture books that use the format of larger text for the basic story and then smaller text for more details. Perhaps best about this book is that Butterworth uses both sections of the book to share scientific information, too often the science is left mostly to the smaller text and younger readers miss out on the fascinating facts.
The artwork by Nelms is simply exquisite. Just like the seal, the book really comes alive in its underwater scenes. Nelms manages to offer lots of small details to look at, but also to capture the wavering light and softness of water. There are illustrations throughout that have a beautiful depth to them, inviting us to hidden places under the water.
A beauty of a science book, this celebration of seals gets my enthusiastic seal of approval. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Seeger has created a very different style of book from her recent Green and First the Egg. Here there is a bull who doesn’t know how to make friends. He’s been bullied by the other bulls and when asked to play by some other animals responds in the same way. He puffs himself up and calls them all names until one little goat stands up to him and calls him a bully. Then he realizes the way that he’s been acting. He returns to his regular size, no longer puffed up and cruel, and apologizes to them. Luckily, they are still willing to play with him.
Still done in her ultra-simple style, this book has only a few words. Most of the bullying is conveyed by the artwork and the bull’s posture and size. He becomes so dominant on the page while he is bullying others that it is impossible to see anything but him. The illustrations are done in flat color and thick lines with handmade paper as the background.
Really capturing the feel when you are being bullied, this book also shows that if you are bullying others, you can self-correct and still be friends. The simple style and direct message make this more appropriate for very young children ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Join in voting on the 2013 Opening Round to select the Best Middle Grade & Children’s book on GoodReads. Voting for this initial round runs through November 9th. Here are the 15 nominees:
Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Christ Grabenstein
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Fyre by Angie Sage
The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
The Sun Trail by Erin Hunter
Tales from a Not-So-Happy-Heartbreaker by Rachel Renee Russell
Trust No One by Linda Sue Park