Category: Elementary School

The Skydiving Beavers by Susan Wood

The Skydiving Beavers by Susan Wood

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale by Susan Wood, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (9781585369942, Amazon)

When people start to move into McCall, Idaho in the 1940’s, they encroach on the beavers who were already living there. Soon the new human homes and roads are flooded as the beavers build their dams. In this sort of struggle, it is always the humans who win. But a unique conservation effort is undertaken by the Idaho Fish and Game Department to move the beavers to a safer and more sheltered habitat. The problem is how to get the beavers into the pristine wilderness where there are no airports and no roads. Perhaps the solution can come from World War II parachutes and one brave beaver named Geronimo.

Wood takes care with the amount of prose she has on each page, offering just the right amount of detail and action for young readers. Her prose is also playful, as she describes both the beauty of Idaho and the damage that the beavers can do. The tone serves the book well with the whimsical use of parachutes and boxes that can open when they hit the ground. The story is a fascinating one and the book makes sure to explain that this sort of solution would not be done today where it is expected that humans and nature find a way to co-exist.

The illustrations are a mix of workshop images and desks where plans are made and then the Idaho landscape and horizons. The images settle the book deeply into the wilderness and the setting in which the book takes place. There is a sense of isolation and beauty in the images where the beavers land in their new habitat.

Fascinating and fun, this nonfiction picture book tells the story of a unique solution to a wildlife issue. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Sleeping Bear Press.

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper

The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper (9781484726464, Amazon)

Part of the Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series, this early reader is a philosophical joy. Yellow Bird has a button that does absolutely nothing, or does it? He shows it to Red Bird and Blue Bird. When Blue Bird tries the button, it surprises him. And that’s not nothing! It doesn’t surprise Red Bird, which makes Blue Bird sad, also not nothing. Then Yellow Bird gets angry at their responses, which is also not nothing. Soon the button can make them do lots of things, even get funny and silly. Perhaps the button does everything?

Harper has created a wonderful mix of humor and philosophy in this early reader. Done with just the right jaunty humor and wild zaniness, the book moves at a fast pace towards its philosophical conclusion. The ties to Elephant and Piggie are clear and this feels like a natural extension of their humor and attitude, making it exactly the right kind of book for this series.

The illustrations are bright and simple. Done with similar speech bubbles to Elephant and Piggie, they convey the emotions of the birds clearly, something that is very important in this book in particular.

A zingy riot of an early reader, this one is a winner. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence (9781626722804, Amazon)

Avani’s father has signed her up for Flower Scouts so that she can make friends in her new town. But all of the other girls are interested only in talking about makeup and boys. Then Avani is accidentally teleported into space by an alien named Mabel, who is working on her own badges for her scout troop. Being a Star Scout like Mabel is a whole lot more interesting than being a Flower Scout, so Avani starts joining them instead of her earth-bound scouts. As Avani learns to build robots, teleport things, drive space ships, and race jetpacks, she finds a place where she fits in. Now she just needs to get her father to sign off on a permission slip for her to go to Camp Andromeda for a week!

This friendly science fiction graphic novel is filled with humor and lots of action. Avani is a main character of color with her Indian heritage that plays a role throughout the graphic novel in things like language and food. She is game for the entire adventure, allowing herself to try new things, push herself to learn and even form a real rivalry with another troop of scouts.

The art is playful and fun with the dialogue working well to move the book forward at a fast pace that will please young readers. There is lots of action, plenty of space exploration and even camp pranks and jokes. The pleasure is in seeing camping tropes used on an asteroid by alien creatures.

Funny and warm, this graphic novel has strong STEM overtones and even a few poop jokes. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

 

The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold

The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold.jpg

The Song from Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold (9781681194011, Amazon)

Released July 4, 2017.

This novel for middle grades combines fantasy with a touch of horror. Frank’s best friends are away for most of the summer, so she doesn’t have much to do. Her father is always sending her out of the house to play, unaware that she has been targeted by a group of boys and is being bullied. When they toss her backpack into a patch of nettles, another boy steps in. Nick has always been teased at school and doesn’t have any friends. He’s bigger than the other kids and talks almost like an adult. Frank isn’t sure she wants to be friends with Nick, but when she visits his home she hears strange music that makes her feel stronger and better. Frank snoops enough to find out Nick’s secret, one that is dangerous and puts them both at risk.

Harrold’s writing is exceptional. He writes about bullying with deep perception and understanding. The bullying scenes are intense and underscore the feeling of powerlessness combined with cruelty. Harrold also captures the way that one can think one thing in the gut in another in the head. Frank has a lot of difficult choices to make in the book, ones that put her own well-being before that of others. It’s particularly nice that Frank is not a great heroine. She manages to betray people, think of deserting them, wonder whether she should just walk away, and yet in the end is exactly the heroine that we all need to be. She is often not really likable either, and that makes the book work particularly well somehow.

Pinfold’s illustrations are swirls of darkness and shadow on the page. They menace and threaten, just like the bullies in the neighborhood. There’s an aspect of danger to all of them. They manage to be both intimate and distant, a dance of being the victim or the observer.

A novel that combines horror and fantasy into one dark summer, this book is simply amazing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Bloomsbury.

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe (9781452150185, Amazon)

The lives of seven children from around the world are documented in this engaging nonfiction picture book. A child each from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Russia and Uganda share their daily lives. They talk about what they eat, where they live, their schools, how they play and where they sleep. This is an intimate look at these children and their lifestyles that offers a way to look at how cultures are different but also how certain things are universal as well.

Lamothe worked with seven real families to create the book, showing photographs of them at the end of the book. The focus on concrete things that make up our lives offers a tangible way for children to see cultures and explore differences and similarities. It’s a clever way to invite children to explore and learn.

The illustrations are phenomenal and with their fine details offer the same sort of window as photographs. While it is great to see the photographs at the end, they offer a sort of confirmation that the illustrations truly have captured the lives of these children. These are illustrations to pore over and enjoy, allowing them to transport you around the globe.

Wonderful for classrooms and libraries, this nonfiction picture book is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman

The Adventures of John Blake Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman, illustrated by Fred Fordham (9781910989296, Amazon)

This is Philip Pullman’s first graphic novel and what a way to start! It is the story of the Mary Alice, a ship that is caught traveling through time. Her crew is from all over the world and from all parts of time. But they are in danger as one of the most powerful men in the modern day is searching for them because the boy on board the Mary Alice, John Blake, knows his secret and could ruin him. When an Australian girl falls off of her family’s boat, she is rescued by John and taken aboard the Mary Alice. Now she has a chance to save them in return, if she can.

Pullman’s graphic novel reads like a film script. It is full of guns, explosions, and fights that make it a wild read. Then there is the historical piece to it, something that slows the intense momentum and makes the book warmer and more vital. Add in the touch of ghostly science fiction that moves the ship through time and you have a rich mix of genres that is impossible to stop reading.

Fordham’s art is done in full color, rich and vibrant on the page. His art is clear and precise, offering children reading this book a real feel of adult graphic novels. There is no cuteness here, just a realistic science fiction ghost story that is exactly what will lead young readers to search for more graphic novels and comics to read.

Get this into the hands of children who love super hero comics and they will fall hard for John Blake and the Mary Alice. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

 

Colette’s Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault

Colette's Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault

Colette’s Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault (9781101917596, Amazon)

Colette has moved to a new neighborhood and her parents won’t let her have a pet. She angrily kicks a box over the fence and meets some new kids. Colette wants to be friends but doesn’t have any good answer for them when they ask what she is doing, so she invents a pet that she has lost, a parakeet. The children take her to meet other neighbors who can help her find her pet. One after another the children help and then Colette adds to her fib. Her pet soon has specific colors, a name, a sound it makes, and a poster to help find it. Then Colette’s fib grows into a full-blown story. How will the others react when they realize she’s made the entire thing up?

Done in graphic novel style, this picture book is a delightful mix of a story about moving to a new place, the impact of telling lies and making new friends. Colette’s small fib grows far beyond what she had ever intended as she tries to cover up that she was frustrated and angry. With each new person involved, the lie builds to the find crescendo where it turns into something else entirely, something shared and wonderful despite how it all began.

The illustrations have a unique feel to them. They are done in blues and grays with pops of yellow in Colette’s jacket, small touches in the neighborhood and the color of her imaginary pet. This limited palette is beautifully done, the blues and yellows vibrant against the subtler grays.

A great graphic novel pick for young readers, this book looks at large themes with kindness and grace. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Tundra Books.