Bright Star by Yuyi Morales

Cover image for Bright Star.

Bright Star by Yuyi Morales (9780823443284)

Morales returns with her first picture book since her remarkable Dreamers. A fawn awakens in the desert, alive and bright. The fawn and its mother walk across the landscape, past lizards, jackrabbits, cacti and more. Sometimes, the fawn must lie low and hide so that it is safe, ducked low down among the spikes of the cacti. If the fawn feels afraid, it must shout it out loud, stuck at the endless concrete wall with barbed wire on top. The fawn isn’t alone. When rain comes, it offers secrets of the desert as it bursts into bloom, full of imagination. Just right for the fawn, or child, to realize that they are a bright star in our world.

Written in a combination of English and Spanish, this book speaks to the experience of children who have immigrated to the United States, whether through the desert and the past the wall or in another way. It is also a more universal celebration of children and their positive impact on the world, serving as a source of hope and opportunity to move beyond where we are now. Morales’ writing is beautifully simple and yet also evocative. Her weaving of the two languages is particularly striking.

Morales uses a wide variety of media in her illustrations. She uses handmade wool yarn from Oaxaca to weave words and textures. She used textures from photographs of concrete and fencing. She also created the amazing texture and feel of the children’s faces in the book using a photograph of a baby’s arm at a migrant shelter in Sonora. The entire book has an energy around it that calls us to pay attention to what is happening at the border and to children there.

Powerful and striking, this book calls for justice by showing the beauty of the people caught in the broken system. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Neal Porter Books.

I Am Smoke by Henry Herz

Cover image for I Am Smoke.

I Am Smoke by Henry Herz, illustrated by Merce López (9780884487883)

Told in first person by smoke itself, this picture book celebrates the many ways in which smoke appears. It’s around every campfire, forming from burning branches into a mist of carbon dioxide, water vapor and ash. Smoke can be dangerous but it can also be helpful, used to warm seeds into germination. Smoke can clear insects out of structures and make bees sleepy. It can also communicate, used for centuries around the world to send signals and emerging from incense during religious ceremonies. It can flavor our foods and act as a medicine at times. It returns to earth when it rains, ready to feed the forests and then start the cycle again.

Told in simple sentences, this picture book also shares scientific information. In a book that can be used with small children, there are marvelous science details too that will inspire some children to look at smoke differently. The uses of smoke are shared on the pages, each one highlighted and celebrated as the book continues.

The illustrations capture the wonder of the campfire and other flames. What is done best though is the way that the smoke itself is depicted. Sometimes it reaches fingers onto the page, other times it fills the page with white vapors and still others it darkens the scene. The smoke is layered and full of movement, beautifully shown in each image.

A fiery look at smoke and its impact on our world. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Tilbury House Publishers.