In 1904 in Berlin, Germany, Wilhelm von Osten had an extraordinary horse named Clever Hans. Hans could count and tell time. He could identify colors and the value of coins. He could do math, read words, and knew music as well. Many people didn’t believe that Hans could really do these things and assumed it was nothing but a trick. Wilhelm von Osten truly believed in his horse though, having spent four years teaching him using treats to keep him focused. Scientists came to test Clever Hans and watch for secret signals from van Osten or others in the audience. Soon the tests started to figure out how Clever Hans was doing such amazing things! It wasn’t a trick, but instead showed exactly how smart he actually was.
Kokias invites readers deep into the mystery and wonder of Clever Hans. She sets up her book so that readers are presented with the amazing things that the horse can do and then bring them along on the journey of exploring what was actually happening. The book is gripping and fascinating as readers steadily see their own theories dismissed by the experts and the final reveal of the truth is satisfying and fascinating. The art by Lowery has a great playfulness to it that adds to the delight of the book.
A book of scientific discovery that readers must finish to discover how Clever Hans does it. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Jenae goes through life being invisible. It’s her own superpower, just like her favorite show, Astrid Dane. At school she is entirely ignored, and she prefers it that way. Her family is different, though with her mother always rushing, her brother’s injury and her grandfather’s health problems, Jenae can end up invisible there too. So it’s very strange when the new boy at school notices Jenae immediately. Aubrey is also different from the other kids. He too loves Astrid Dane. But Jenae isn’t looking for a friend at all. She keeps pushing Aubrey away, but Aubrey just keeps coming back. Soon Jenae realizes that she has found a friend. It’s too bad that circumstances are creating a time when she will have to ruin their friendship to avoid having to do the thing she fears most, giving a speech in front of a crowd.
There is so much to love in this book. The warm family that Jenae comes from gives the book a wonderful heartbeat, including a brother who won’t really talk to her after his accident and his return home from college. Her grandfather is full of advice, pushing Jenae to face her fears head on. Jenae blames herself for much of what happens in her family, including her brother’s accident. She deeply believes that she can think strong thoughts and make things happen.
Still, that’s not true when it comes to Aubrey, a new friend who brings lots of mixed feelings for Jenae. Jenae with her unique view of the world, her ability to be alone and not lonely, and her independence is also full of fears at times. She’s marvelously complex, geeky and individual. Aubrey is much the same, yet where Jenae is quiet, Aubrey always has something to say.
Full of fascinating characters, this book is about finding your voice, standing up and insisting on being heard. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Explore the angles, lines and structures of the buildings and spaces that make up the city. Through vibrant photographs, this poetic informational picture book takes readers on a journey through cities and their spectacular architectural features. The author focuses on more than soaring skyscrapers, also showing readers mosaic floor tiles, dramatic doorways, ancient cities, and the plants that live in urban environs. Fountains, bridges, trusses and more also fill the pages with fascinating gears and incredible structures.
Sayre has once again created an informational picture book that really shines. Here she turns her lens to urban environments, showing readers various elements that they may overlook on their own journeys. She includes information on how to explore a city and offers questions for readers to ask themselves as they wander. The questions are architectural, asking readers to look closely and then wonder a bit.
As always, Sayre’s photographs are impressive. Here she beautifully plays with angles and arches, points and columns, windows and water. The book feels like a walk through a city, each page turn like rounding a new corner.
A joyful look at our cities and the beauty to discover there. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books.
On an autumn day, Ollie heads outside wearing her catsuit and followed by her cat, Pumpkin. She was about to jump in a pile of leaves when she noticed that it was moving! Inside she discovered a shivering little kitten. After warming the kitten up, the three of them played together in the woods until they needed a rest. That’s when Ollie accidentally left Pumpkin behind as she continued to play with the kitten, moving farther and farther away. After following a secret path in the woods, Ollie and the kitten found the kitten’s home. But that’s when Ollie realized that she had left Pumpkin behind. She tried to find Pumpkin, but ended up lost in the woods. She was lost until Pumpkin found her and led Ollie back home. Both Ollie and the kitten’s owner were very thankful to be reunited with their beloved cats.
With a distinct Halloween vibe, this picture book is a gentle autumn read that celebrates the love of pets, particularly cats. The story arc is strong, leading children nicely through a full tale with a satisfying conclusion that has a witch flying in the air at the end. Readers will love the suspicion that the kitten’s owner is a witch and then the confirmation in the illustrations.
The illustrations are done in a limited color palette of grays, blacks and pops of orange. The orange appears throughout, in pumpkins, leaves, shutters and other elements on each page. The illustrations contribute to the gentleness of the story as well as its merry take on Halloween.
This one will make you purr with happiness and is just right for anyone looking for a gentle Halloween tale. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Papi is strong, because he works hard all day long as a bricklayer. He builds walls, spreading the mortar, tapping the brick in place, and scraping the drips. He climbs high on scaffolds. Luis doesn’t mind heights either, climbing to the top of the jungle gym. They have a dream of a their own house, but it’s a “someday” dream. Father and child have the same lunches of empanada and horchata. Then both head back to work and school. At night, Papi returns home, hot and tired. On Saturday, Papi has a surprise. After a long drive, they pull up to a brick house, their new always home!
Told in simple language just right for smaller children, this book speaks to the hard work, resilience and patience it takes to create a home. Sheffield cleverly uses repetition in her text and mirrors the experience of father and son throughout their day.
The design of the book is exceptional. She has created the illustrations from photographs, collage and digital painting. She also notes that Luis and his father are formed from photographs of bricks, strong and resolute. The warm color palette is brightened with blue skies. The city skyline is formed from bricks as well as words like “dream” and “build.”
Strong and vibrant. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.
Molly is beyond tired of the dress coding that is happening at her middle school. It’s a dress code that unfairly targets only the girls and then only some of the girls. Molly isn’t the most developed girl in her class, so she often isn’t dress coded though she’s wearing the same outfit as a friend who is. So Molly starts a podcast about the dress code at her school and how inequitable it is. She interviews girls about their experiences, catching the notice of even high school girls who want to share their own middle school stories. Molly also tries to get the attention of the school board, but their petition and requests go nowhere. Soon Molly is leading a significant rebellion at the school, finding her own voice, standing in her power, and not apologizing for what she wears.
It is hard to believe that this is a debut middle-grade novel. Firestone, the author of several young adult novels, really captures what it is to be a middle school girl. The pressures of that age are magnified in this book through the horrible dress code, but are also firmly universal, dealing with body image, periods, friendships, and complicated family relationships. Firestone’s writing is fiery and offers a call to action, positively showing what can happen when you stand up.
The characters of this book are wonderfully drawn with each friend and girl having their own personalities. They each stand out with a unique voice as well, something that is difficult with this large a cast of characters. Molly herself is marvelous, a mix of courage and middle school doubts and fears. The book contains gay characters, who reveal themselves with no trauma and lots of hope, just right.
A dynamo of a middle-grade read that will inspire girls to become activists for their own rights. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Through simple text and exquisite line drawings, the tale of a family of robins is told. Beginning in early spring, two robins meet and then build a nest together in the crook of a tree limb. As the tree is in full bloom, bright blue eggs appear, the only color in the book. Soon there are four eggs which readers get to see hatch into chicks over the course of a few panels. The hungry chicks must then be fed, the parents hurrying across the page. Storms must also be weathered and predators forced away from the nest. Then it’s the chicks turn to be brave as they leave the nest. Getting larger, the robins prepare to head to their winter months together.
Cole’s text is simple but shares a lot of information along the way. He makes sure to explain things in ways that feel entirely natural as part of the overall story arc. The Author’s Note at the end has more information. The illustrations are simply lovely done in fine pen lines that look even more detailed that reality. The sense of depth that Cole evokes is exceptional as is the way he captures the robins in action so naturally. Readers will notice the apple tree as it moves from bare branches to spring bloom to full fruiting, another way to explore the seasonal changes.
Expect this one to have award buzz, it’s exceptional. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
This wordless picture book follows the journey of one paper bag from its beginnings as a tall tree in the forest through the hands of a family. The tree is cut down, hauled away, ground up and made into paper which then is formed into a brown paper bag. Put into a box, the bag is given to a family at a grocery store. They take it home, draw a heart on the bag, and use it for school lunches. The bag is used lots of different ways after that as the boy grows up, taking it with him to college. There he meets a girl and they draw two hearts on the bag. It’s even there when he proposes to her. When they have a baby, the bag is part of the mobile over the crib, and a third heart is added. When grandpa, the bag’s first owner visits, a fourth heart is added by his grandson. The bag becomes worn and taped, but serves one last purpose that brings the entire story full circle.
Cole beautifully shows how small acts of reusing something can become tradition in a family. The book never seems like a lecture, always just showing and demonstrating how reuse is possible and its great potential as well. The paper bag in the story if remarkably resilient for so much use by generations, but I think we all have items in our families that survive despite being used by everyone, to be handed to the next generation.
Told in images only, the book is filled with fine-line drawings that shine with light. The paper bag is the only color on the page, it’s brown color becoming all the more warm and glowing and the red hearts popping with color.
A truly great wordless picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.