The Specific Ocean by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Katty Maurey
Released on August 1, 2015.
A girl does not want to leaver her friends behind in the city and head off for summer vacation. There’s nothing to do in the little house near the ocean that she used to call The Specific Ocean instead of the Pacific. She starts out with a moping schedule and refuses to head to the water. The next day though, she does go down with her family and the water is cold but it also has warm spots. The next day, she races her brother down to the beach. They spend time floating in the waves, walking along the shoreline, and sitting on the rocks to watch the waves. The girl decides that she wants to have some of the ocean to call her own and to bring home, but that won’t work. So she has to figure out how to take the feeling of it home with her, deep inside.
Maclear has written a book about the process of change and the time that it takes to allow new experiences in. Time in the book moves slowly forward, allowing the girl the chance to change her mind in a natural way. Then the connection with nature becomes a delight, a way to spend the long days of vacation. The ocean becomes not just a source of activity for her, but a source of personal peace and joy. That process is honored here, that feeling of being connected to the world as a whole and wanting to keep that feeling with you every day. The prose in this book is exceptional. Maclear writes in first person and allows the girl’s voice to be poetic but still childlike and simple.
Maurey’s illustrations are filled with an inner glow that is helped by the pastel palette that is used. The sun shines on the page, the water beckons. The book has that dreamlike quality that many good vacations do, especially those filled with salt water and sand.
This quiet picture book speaks to those who don’t like change but is ultimately about nature and its power in our lives. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.
Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter, illustrated by Qin Leng (InfoSoup)
Released August 4, 2015
Piper is heading off to her first day of second grade. She looks forward to much of it, from riding the boat to school from the tiny island where they live to the donuts and other treats they get each morning on the way. But she is also desperately missing her older brother Erik. So she puts on his earmuffs and refuses to take them off. She’s sure that her teacher will understand, however when she gets to school she has a new teacher who looks like a princess but can also be awfully grumpy about things like earmuffs. The next day, after promising everyone that she would take the earmuffs off when she got to school, Piper decides that it’s best not to go. Unfortunately, sirens go off and she is stuck up in a tree waiting for everything to calm down. Everything is getting worse and worse until Piper discovers the treasure in the fairy tree outside her house.
Potter writes consistently wonderful books no matter what age she is writing for, so it should be no surprise that she also excels at writing for elementary-aged children. These simple chapter books offer a charming mix of reality and a dash of magic in the form of the fairy tree and the treasure it offers. In Piper, Potter has created a great girl character who is determined and wonderfully creative in the way she solves problems. This of course is what lands her in all kids of trouble, much to the delight of the reader.
Leng’s illustrations are simple and friendly. They capture both the dynamic Piper and her family as well as the unique island they live on. The adult characters too are wonderfully warm and human. I particularly enjoy the neighbor Mrs. Pennypocket in her overalls and her boots, the one who introduces Piper to the magic tree.
A strong new series for elementary-aged kids, this book and the second book in the series will be enjoyed by fans of Clementine and Judy Moody.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.