This is the third book in the Over and Under series that explores ecosystems with children. The young narrator hikes into the rain forest with Tito, their guide. They discover the hidden world in the canopies of the trees, filled with monkeys, insects and birds. They cross a rope bridge that sways above the sleep crocodiles in the river. As they get higher, they see monkeys swing in the trees. Sloths ignore the rain as it starts to fall while blue morpho butterflies take shelter on the tree trunks. Everywhere there is life, small and large, predator and prey. The two people make it home for dinner, as darkness falls.
Messner creates a story that wraps the reader in the experience of walking through a rain forest. Every page offers new animals, the sound of rain, the sway of the bridges. She shows it all with such wonder and fascination that one can’t read the book without also getting curious and wanting to learn more. She offers that in her Author’s Note as well as providing more information on the animals in the book.
Neal’s art is vibrant and beautiful, showing the play of light through the huge trees. He depicts each of the animals, some well known and others that will be new to the reader. As fog descends in the book, it fills the pages creating mystery and beauty.
A journey worth taking. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.
Brace yourself for this teen novel that brings you along with fourteen teens who are taken into the Japanese detention camps in the United States during World War II. The teenagers have all grown up together in Japantown in San Francisco. But when Pearl Harbor is bombed, their lives are destroyed when their families are relocated to the detention camps. Told in each of their voices, the story revolves around their daily lives in the camp, the intolerable racism and injustice that they face, and how they navigate still being Americans.
Chee moves from her successful fantasy trilogy to this incredibly impactful story of a group of friends who are taken from their lives. Her writing is exceptional, moving from straightforward storytelling to passages that sing with poetic touches to direct verse. All of it screams of the injustice, demanding that people see what actually happened in the camps and the impossible decisions faced by the Japanese Americans who were held there. She also very successfully moves to the battlefields of World War II, breaking lives and hearts.
Fourteen voices are a lot to manage as an author, but Chee does it with such a deep understanding of each character that readers can simply allow the characters to flow around them at first. By the end of the book, readers will have connected with each of the characters both from their own perspectives and from the adjoining stories of the other characters that include them as well. It is deftly done, capturing readers into this powerful story and making it impossible to look away or deny.
Incredibly eloquent and compelling, this historical fiction for teens is one that can’t be missed. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers.
Open Bud Ranch is a place that took in all kinds of animals. When Jack the goat first arrived, it was clear to all of the other animals that Jack liked his space. But Charlie the horse didn’t even see Jack, since he was getting used to being only able to see from one of his eyes. After getting stepped on, Jack made sure to keep an eye on Charlie at all times. That’s when he noticed that he and Charlie liked a lot of the same things like sunlit pastures and smelling the honeysuckle. But Charlie often got turned around and had to move really slowly. One day, Jack decided to help and led Charlie to the best place to graze and then down to the river. Soon the two went everywhere together. Then Charlie lost the sight in his other eye, leaving him entirely blind. Jack still liked his space, so when a storm blew in, Charlie left the warm barn to protect Jack from the rain. After an argument, Charlie got in an accident and that left Jack the only one to save him, even though it meant talking to the others on the farm.
Levis offers a rich story arc in this picture book that tells a full tale and also manages to be a great read-aloud. The tale of these two unlikely friends is based on the true story of Charlie and Jack. The book gently shows that animals have value even if they aren’t technically productive in a farming sense, and that they have emotions and the ability to help one another when they are in need.
Santoso’s illustrations beautifully show the farm with glowing pages of sunlit pastures. He moves easily into action and drama as the story demands it with the same animals distraught or scared. The illustrations capture the personalities of Charlie and Jack.
An engaging and warm look at animal rescue and friendship. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.
This preschool-friendly picture book explores the basics of bird watching. There are many ways to find a bird, such as offering seeds. Sometimes you may need to blend in, such as near a pond. Being very quiet is also key. Birds aren’t just flying in the sky, they are also down on the ground foraging. Birds also eat, swim and wade in the water. Sometimes it can take having good eyes to detect a hidden bird. And of course, looking up at telephone wires and trees is a good idea too. Putting up feeders and bird houses helps and lets you watch birds right from your window. But the best way of all to find a bird is to close your eyes and listen for their song.
Told in the simple language, this picture book invites readers to enter nature and look for birds. With various birds on the pages, the book offers examples of different birds and their habitats. The text is encouraging, showing readers how easy it is to find birds all around them and become a bird watcher themselves. The author’s note at the end of the book offers more tips for bird watching, encouraging using a field guide and creating your own list of birds you have spotted. It also mentions becoming a Citizen Scientist and helping with bird counts.
The illustrations are key in this book, showing various birds on the pages nicely labeled. The images are bold and colorful, filled at times with a myriad of birds and other times with birds the reader must spot. The pictures invite conversation and discovery.
A merry introduction to birds and bird watching just right for preschoolers. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Beach Lane Books.
This nonfiction picture book is about the life and music career of Blind Willie Johnson. The book begins with the fact that Willie Johnson’s music was sent into space on Voyager I in 1977. The year then turns to Johnson’s birth in 1897. Johnson was a musician from a young age when he could still see, losing his sight around age eight. Music continued for him in church choir and changing gospel songs to the blues. Grown up, Johnson traveled Texas by train, performing on the street corner and in churches. Eventually, a man from a record label heard him and his first record sold thousands of copies. Time passed and one of those songs launched into the darkness of space.
Golio keeps his text tight and brief, giving young readers plenty of opportunity to witness the remarkable gift of music that took a man from being a blind child to making a record that made history. Written in the second person speaking directly to Johnson, the book has the feel of a gift laid before him as well as being a reminder to young people of what hard work and skill can create in your life.
Lewis’ illustrations are remarkable. Done in watercolor they are filled with light, yellows glowing, stars shining, and hope emerging on each page. There are several great images of Johnson in the book, playing is guitar in each.
Make sure to listen to “Dark Was the Night” while reading this with children. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.
The first Boeing 747 was built in 1968, though it did have one problem, it couldn’t fly! It was called a jumbo jet because it was so big. The plane had to use the same principles as other airplanes, a critical combination of lift, thrust and drag. Just to be built, a new factory had to be created that was large enough to house the process and the jumbo jet. The building is still the largest by volume in the world. New ways of driving the big plane, new giant-sized landing gear, and new safety measures had to be designed and practiced. A few months after the first plane came off of the assembly line to delighted crowds, the plane was ready for its first test flight. Get ready for a dramatic take off!
Gall delights in the size and scope of the jumbo jet as well as the incredible feat it was for Boeing to have it finished in only 28 months, building the plane and the factory at the same time. Readers are introduced to the concepts behind airplane flight and design, shown concepts for what the airplane could have looked like inside, and given information on the earliest flying machines. The scientific details are shared with clearly and as part of the overall story. Additional fun facts, a glossary and sources are offered at the end of the book.
The illustrations by Gall have a marvelous vintage vibe that places the book firmly in the 1960’s. They are clearly modern as well with detailed images of the plane, cutaways to show the interior, and detailed images of scientific concepts.
This nonfiction picture book soars! Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from egalley provided by Roaring Brook Press.
Based on a Briton folktale, this graphic novel takes us to the fantasy world of Ys. There, two sisters grow up together in a castle crafted by their mother at the edge of the sea. The two sisters each have elements of their mother’s personality, but when their mother dies the two drift apart. Rozenn, the eldest and heir, is most comfortable out on the moors with the animals. Dahut though enjoys the castle and figures out how to control the sea monster that protects their city from attacks from the sea. Dahut must make dark choices to keep her power flowing, something she resents as Rozenn spends her time away from court. When that darkness attacks Ys, secrets are revealed and battles waged.
Intriguing and fascinating, this graphic novel is marvelously dark and twisted. Anderson focuses on the two sisters, leaving the weak king to his own devices. The two are very different, one abandoning her station and the crown while the other sacrificed herself to keep Ys vibrant and safe. At the same time, Rozenn remains the pure and natural one while Dahut must do the dirty work of power. The question of who is the heroine of the book is haunting.
The art is equally unique, moving from brightness to almost murky underwater colors. The illustrations follow the story perfectly, becoming almost oppressive as the choices made come back to challenge both sisters. The two sisters on the page are depicted very differently too, showing one beautiful but plainly adorned while the other wears finery and jewels.
Rich, dramatic and wild. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Every Color of Light by Hiroshi Osada, illustrated by Ryoji Arai, translated by David Boyd (9781592702916)
This picture book explores how weather impacts the sky and its light. Starting with just a pitter patter of rain, the rain steadily grows heavier and louder. Soon the lightning cracks across the sky and thunder booms. Colors swirl in the storm as the wind rises. Just as suddenly, the rain stops and light returns to the sky. Raindrops form crystals in the sunlight. Evening comes, spreading colors across the sky. The white moon rises in the darkening sky. Stars sparkle above, the moon reflected in a pool as everyone falls asleep.
The text in this Japanese import is marvelously poetic. It speaks to the impact of a storm on the sky and on the light you see. The drama of the storm is captured in both the text and the illustrations, just as the returning calm is. Both are celebrated in the book, something quite unusual as the quiet is allowed to be truly focused on.
The illustrations are what sets this picture book apart. Illustrated with glorious paintings that show nature and the changing light, the book shimmers and shines. The changing light sweeps on the pages bringing sun shafts, pink lightning strikes, dark night, and a bright moon.
Unusual and intensely beautiful, this picture book beckons you outside to linger for awhile. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Enchanted Lion Books.