Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys by Mike Unwin, illustrated by Jenni Desmond (9781547600977)
Explore the many animals who migrate each year from all over the world in this nonfiction picture book. The book focuses on each animal’s amazing journey and provides a wide look at migration in general, the various types of animals who migrate, and the specific story of each animal. The animals include birds like the emperor penguin, the Arctic tern, the swallow, and the ruby-throated hummingbird. It also tells the story of mammals like the whales, elephants and caribou. Then there are surprising stories of migrations of crabs, dragonflies, and bats.
The text of the book offers real details of the animal’s lives and their migrations. The book ends with a map of all of the different migration paths shared in the book, nicely covering much of the globe with their travels. The information provided is fascinating and just enough to discover whether you want to learn more about that animal or not.
The illustrations are done in full-page color where the animals take center stage against their various habitats. From the Christmas crabs filling the street with their red color to the beauty of a mother whale and her calf to the woods filled with monarch wings, each of them are unique and just as interesting to explore as the text.
A fascinating and scientific look at migration and the creatures who do it year after year. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.
Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph That Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright (9781624146916)
In South Africa on June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson was killed in what was supposed to be a peaceful student protest. The photograph of him being carried from the scene helped lead to the end of apartheid. The book is told from three perspectives: Hector’s, his older sister, and the photographer who took the image. A new law had gone into effect that all South Africans had to have half of their subjects taught in Afrikaans, the language of the white ruling class. The book shows Hector trying to remember to count in Afrikaans at home. On the fateful day, Hector gets ready for school but when he gets there, the students aren’t attending school but are protesting instead. He gets caught in the protest and then a bullet is fired. After the crowds disperse, Hector is on the ground.
Done in a graphic novel style, this nonfiction book is based on interviews with Hector’s family to see what sort of boy he was. The book shows his playful side and the tough choices his family made to have their children in school. The book also shows touches of what life was like during apartheid with separate entrances for black and white and oppressive laws. The art is done in sandy tones and deftly shows the dominance of apartheid in everyday life.
An important book that speaks to one boy and the way his death helped transform a country. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown (9781338349610)
Released July 30, 2019.
Brown returns with another look at wildlife that never get featured in children’s book about animals. Each of these animals is fascinating and Brown offers really interesting facts and tidbits about each of them. The book includes a kangaroo that lives in trees and can jump down over 60 feet without getting hurt. It also has beaked whales with peculiar teeth that hunt fish and squid. There are giant colorful squirrels from India, a killer marten from Afghanistan who can hunt deer, and a Chinese deer with fangs who can leap into trees. Page after page has an unusual animal that demonstrate that we are still learning about wildlife on Earth and that there are more animals than tigers, lions and giraffes to discover.
As with his first book, it is Martin’s writing that makes this such a pleasure to read. I find it impossible to read this book without sharing the information and humor with those around me. The facts shared are interesting and told with plenty of attitude and aside comments that make it great fun to keep learning. Each animal has data points too, such as size, what they eat, where they live, and status. Size in particular is done very nicely, using comparisons like dogs, cats and humans. Brown’s art gives each of the animals rather googly eyes and they often seem to be looking directly at the reader. They are shown in their habitat and often in motion. Other details are called out in images as well and are embedded in the text.
Smart, funny and sure to teach you something new. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from ARC provided by David Fickling Books.
A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Julia Kuo (9781481446648)
Award-winning author Kadohata tells the story of a Japanese-American family forced to return to Japan after World War II because of their Japanese ancestry. After spending years in an internment camp in the United States, twelve-year-old Hanako and her family move to Japan to live with her paternal grandparents. They travel by ship first and then train until they reach the decimated city of Hiroshima, where her grandparents’ farm lies outside. All of Japan is poor and hungry, with black markets and children begging on the streets. Hanako meets her grandparents for the first time, discovering that her grandfather is very like her little brother who is five years old. Her grandmother is stooped over from the hard work in the fields. Hanako must face learning a new language, attending a new school in a different country, and trying to find a way forward for her entire family. It’s a lot of pressure, but Hanako learns steadily to adjust and change.
Kadohata’s novel for children tells the untold story of Japanese Americans forced to repatriate to their country of origin and renounce their American citizenship. It also gives an unflinching look at the aftermath of World War II in Japan, particularly with its setting near Hiroshima. That dark setting is juxtaposed against the warmth and beauty of discovering loving grandparents and building a new relationship. Yet there is a constant sense of loss in the book and a teetering feeling that things may suddenly change at any moment.
As always, Kadohata’s prose is beautiful. She vividly depicts Japanese life during the 1940’s and the unending work of being a tenant farmer. In the midst of all of the sorrow, loss and confusion, she places a loving family who are willing to sacrifice for one another and for brighter futures for the next generation. Through this family, there is intense hope broadcast on the page.
An important and vital book about the horrors of war and its aftermath on individual families. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.
Hummingbird by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray (9781536205381)
In a grandmother’s garden in Central America, a granddaughter watches the zooming hummingbirds. The birds will soon be heading north for the summer to their nesting grounds. The tiny birds must cross the Gulf of Mexico, stopping for a bit of rest on boats along the way. They continue on, following the blooming flowers as they stretch northward. When they reach their nesting grounds, the male hummingbirds defend their nearby flowers. There, the same girl, now in New York City, finds an eggshell on the ground and realizes that she has seen both the beginning and end of the hummingbird’s migration.
Davies, a zoologist, beautifully frames the story of the hummingbird with one little girl’s own travels from Central America to her home in New York City. She makes sure that readers have plenty of facts about the hummingbird, from how light they are to what their diets need to how they nest and migrate. Davies has a real skill for sharing just enough facts with young readers and still telling a compelling story that is not derailed by too many factoids.
The illustrations by Ray are phenomenal. Her delicate lines are exactly the right format for these tiny birds. She captures the beauty of their feathers and their coloring. She also shows them in mid-air but still manages to convey their speed and dexterity.
A beautiful nonfiction picture book about an amazing tiny bird. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Daniel Egneus (9781547600205)
This nonfiction picture book explains a specific process of evolution by following the story of the Peppered Moth. The moths emerge from their cocoons after the long winter, quickly seeking shelter from predators. At first, most of the moths had speckled black and white wings. It allowed them to better hide in the bark of the woods. The ones that happened to be born with dark wings got eaten by predators. So the speckled moths were able to survive to lay their eggs. But then the world around them changed with more soot and pollution covering the bark of the trees and other objects. Now it was the dark moths that survived best and could lay their eggs. Steadily, the moths started to become darker and less speckled. Now though, pollution is lessening and there is no longer as much soot. So the speckled moths are returning alongside the dark moths.
The tale of the Peppered Moth shows many elements of evolutionary process, including natural selection and adaptation. Both of those concepts are more fully described in the final pages of the book but are fully realized in the main part of the book as well. Thomas does a lovely job with the prose, giving the reader just enough information to allow the story to unfold before them. She limits the amount of words on the page, making this accessible for quite young children.
The illustrations are marvelous, inviting readers into the darkness of a moonlit woods as the moths emerge from their cocoons. The pages fill with moths of different mixtures of black and white. When day comes, more predators enter the pages. As the pollution enters, the world becomes dark and filled with dots and specks of dirty soot. The moths glow against the new darkness, or hide well, depending on their color. It’s a stirring and rich look at evolution happening right before your eyes.
Beautifully written and illustrated, this is a very special nonfiction picture book. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.
Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever by Barbara Lowell, illustrated by Dan Andreasen (9781944903589)
Sparky has a dog that is black and white. His dog knows fifty words, loves to each strange things, and only drinks from the bathroom faucet. Sparky and his father always head to the drugstore every Saturday night to pick up the Sunday comics. Sparky loves comics and also loves to draw himself. His teacher says that he may be an artist one day, but Sparky definitely wants to be a cartoonist. But drawing is hard, especially getting characters right in multiple panels. The kids at school love Sparky’s drawings, but ignore him otherwise. When Sparky realizes that his dog could make the comic for Ripley’s Believe It or Not, he sends it in along with his drawing of Spike. Eventually, his drawing and caption are published! It’s just the start for the kid whose real name is Charles Schulz.
Lowell deftly depicts the growth of a young artist as he develops his own dream, his own art and a path forward. It is a pleasure to see a young Charles Schulz and his connection to the dog who will inspire Snoopy. His connection to comics from a young age is also fascinating to see as well as his struggles with friendship. The art by Andreasen is cleverly done with a realistic touch that both pays homage to the work of Schulz but also stands on its own stylistically.
An inspiring look at the creator of Peanuts. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by Cameron Kids.
Grandpa Cacao by Elizabeth Zunon (9781681196404)
A little girl and her Daddy are making her birthday cake, a chocolate one. As they bake the cake, her father tells her about Grandpa Cacao who lives in the Ivory Coast and has a cacao farm. The book looks at the importance of the right soil and weather to grow cacao as well as the skill to know when precisely to harvest the crop. The process of harvest and then scooping out the white beans, curing them in the ground, and then drying them is shown in detail. All the while, the girl and her father are baking together, the smell and taste of the chocolate bridging the two story lines. In the end, as the cake is finished, the little girl gets a special birthday treat.
Zunon’s picture book tells the important tale of where chocolate comes from and the fascinating process of going from farm to product that is not at all what one might expect. The framing of the chocolate farming process by a girl about to celebrate her birthday with a chocolate cake is lovely. It is strengthened even more by her family connection to the Ivory Coast and her grandfather’s farm. The treat at the end makes that even more firmly and tangible for readers.
The illustrations by the author are cleverly done. The little girl’s world is done in full color collages filled with rich touches of patterns and textures. The African farm is done in a more flat format with the people simply white outlines against the landscape. When the two worlds come together, they both become full color and lush.
Everyone loves chocolate and this book explains how it comes to our tables. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.
Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen (9780763695330)
In poems for two voices, this book shows the cunning, evolution and beauty of predators and their prey. From bats to frogs to snakes to hawks to spiders, the poems feature all sorts of animals. Engagingly, often it is sometimes the obvious predator who is actually going to be the prey. That is certainly true in the example of the spider at the center of her web who is being preyed upon by the assassin bug. After each of the poems, there is a section about the animals in nonfiction prose that illuminates the relationship of the two species more clearly.
I was amazed to discover that this is biologist Buhrman-Deever’s first book for children. Her two-voice poems are very effective and could easily be used in classroom activities to be shared aloud by pairs of children who will enjoy being predators and prey since so many of the animals featured are very fascinating. She gives voice to the animals in her poems and then allows scientific information to be shared as well. The end of the book has a lengthy bibliography which is greatly appreciated.
The illustrations by Kitchen are exceptional as well, showing the reader the relationship between the two animals being discussed. They are realistic and dramatic as the animals stand off on the page. Several of the pages also have large gated pages that open to reveal the poem beneath them, allowing Kitchen’s full imagery to be appreciated without words blocking it.
A very successful mix of poetry and science, this one is sure to be preyed upon by hungry readers in classrooms and activities. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.