The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park

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The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng (9781328515131)

A teacher asks her class to think about what they would save in an emergency. You’re allowed to save one thing, knowing that your family and pets are already safe. What would you save, no matter how big it is. Some of the students very quickly decide what they will save while others find the choices almost impossible. Others pick items that were made by grandparents who have passed away. Some have collections they’d want to rescue. Some are very practical, taking their glasses so that they can see or their wallet so they have money to survive. The class has conversations about what they chose and why, giving everyone lots to think about.

Told in verse, this book is written in the dialogue that happens in the classroom. Park captures this dialogue flawlessly, the voices distinct and clear both in their indecision and their decisiveness. Each person reveals a piece of themselves as they reveal why they chose a certain object. The result is a group of students who understand one another a lot better than when they began.

Park writes with such ease on the page that it is amazing to find out in her Author’s Note that she has used a sijo poetic structure throughout the book that limits the number of syllables per line. Within those parameters, she wrote dialogue that never seems limited or stilted as well as offering space for interjections and conversation.

Immensely clever and thought provoking, this book will be embraced by both teachers and students. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Clarion Books.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom by Lita Judge

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The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom by Lita Judge (9781250237071)

Through a combination of poetry and science facts, this nonfiction picture book invites readers into the amazing things that trees can do. The book starts with a young beech tree in the Ruhe Forest in Germany, starting to show readers that trees have a language with one another and live much longer than humans do. The roots of the trees act like an instant message web, sending chemical and electrical signals to one another. Trees also have amazing ways to protect themselves from predators, or over-grazing from giraffes. They create our climate, processing carbon dioxide and offering shelter and cool in their ecosystems. They can ask for help from their neighbor trees, who will send them extra nutrients via their root systems. They offer shelter and food to animals. They can tell time via the light, knowing when seasons are changing. The list goes on and on, creating a sense of wonder about the trees that surround us all.

Judge’s poems capture the world from the perspective of the trees themselves. They show what it feels like to be someone’s home, how they continue to live even after they have fallen, how it feels to nurture baby trees, and how it feels to soar high into the sky with your branches. Judge shares facts that truly elevate children’s understanding of trees and how they communicate with one another. The information is fascinating, offering a glimpse into a hidden world. The book ends with an extensive Author’s Note sharing more information, a glossary of terms and a list of sources and websites.

As always, Judge’s illustrations are marvelous. She captures the depths of the forest, the sunbeams kissing the younger trees. She invites us underground to see a den and the roots communicating. She shows us a variety of seasons, from the mellow tones of fall to the cool greens of spring to the ice of winter and the sun of summer. She is a master of light and movement, showing us perspectives that also amaze.

A great nonfiction read that will have young scientists fascinated by their own backyards. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Roaring Brook Press.

18 Great New Books for Children Coming in April

Here are some of the top new books for children coming out in April. There is a delightful mix of returning characters. well-known authors and new voices. No fooling!

Aven Green Sleuthing Machine by Dusti Bowling

Billy Miller Makes a Wish by Kevin Henkes

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera

Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the Earth by Rachel Sarah

It Doesn’t Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Leonard, My Life as a Cat by Carlie Sorosiak

Listening to the Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars by Jodie Parachini, illustrated by Alexandra Badiu

Merci Suarez Can’t Dance by Meg Medina

Middletown by Sarah Moon

A Peacemaker for Warring Nations: The Founding of the Iroquois League by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden

River Magic by Ellen Booraem

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva

The Story of Bodri by Hedi Fried, illustrated by Stina Wirsen

Thornwood by Leah Cypress

Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff

War and Millie McGonigle by Karen Cushman

The Way of the Hive by Jay Hosler

Ways to Grow Love by Renee Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata

Jump at the Sun: The True Life of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston by Alicia D. Williams

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Jump at the Sun: The True Life of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston by Alicia D. Williams, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara (9781534419131)

As a little girl growing up in Eatonville, Zora loved to listen to stories. She listened to stories of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox at the general store. Zora told her own stories too, to anyone who would listen. But her father didn’t approve of her storytelling, since he considered it telling lies. Her mother though, didn’t want her children growing up to till the land, so she encourage Zora to “jump at de sun.” When Zora’s mother died, she was sent to the Florida Baptist Academy boarding school. Zora loved the books there, but soon her school fees were not paid and she had to leave. She didn’t stay long with her family, quickly moving out and finding work though she kept getting fired or quitting. She only loved the times when she could spin stories. Zora decided to return to high school and graduate, so she lied about her age of 26, claiming she was 16. After graduating, she headed to Howard University and decided to become an author, writing her stories of Eatonville. So she moved to New York and eventually sent out some of her stories to a magazine contest. Zora made another leap after she got attention from winning the contest and got a scholarship to another college where she was assigned to collect Negro folklore, something she had been doing since she was a child!

Williams writes Hurston’s biography with such energy and appreciation. She takes the statement Hurston’s mother made and turns it not only into the title of the book but also into a sentiment woven throughout the entire story, showing the connection between Hurston’s success, her talent and her willingness to make leaps of faith to new opportunities. There is bravery and resilience on these pages, shining in the sunlight as Hurston takes risks in the most inspiring ways.

The illustrations are marvelously colorful, filling the pages with Eatonville, various colleges and the dynamic feel of New York City. All of the pages are full-page art, taking the color right to the edge of the page, glowing with streaming sunlight, peach, green, blue and reds.

A shining leap of a picture book biography that suits its subject perfectly. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.

Too Small Tola by Atinuke

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Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu (9781536211276)

Tola lives in Lagos, Nigeria with her older brother and sister and her grandmother. Tola is the youngest and quite small, though she notices throughout these three stories that often the smallest people turn out to be the strongest too. In the first story, Tola goes with her Grandmommy to the market because she is the best at counting change. She and her grandmother carry the heavy groceries and items back on their heads, stopping along the way for treats. In the next story, the water stops working in their apartment, so Tola wakes her siblings to get water from the well early so they aren’t late for school. But her clever idea doesn’t quite work out as expected. In the last story, Tola and her brother help their neighbor the tailor after he gets into an accident and can’t ride his bike. Thanks to her way with numbers, Tola can measure the clients for their new clothes and her brother is strong enough to pedal them all over the city.

Any new book by Atinuke is a treat, but one that introduces a new character and her family is a particular delight. As always, Atinuke shows both the poverty in Nigeria but also the strength of the community. Tola works hard throughout the book, making sure that she is taking care of her grandmother, her siblings and her neighbors. She uses her own particular skills to help, including her ability to notice small things, count correct change, and measure closely. She also uses her innate kindness and love for others to motivate herself.

The illustrations are done in friendly and often funny line drawings. These drawings show vital elements of the story such as the size of the rice bag that Grandmommy carries on her head and the length of the line at the well. They also help to break up the text, making this early chapter book approachable and adding clever humor.

Another charmer from a master Nigerian storyteller. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

Northbound by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein

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Northbound by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by James E. Ransome (9780763696504)

Michael has always stopped work to watch the trains go by the farm he lives on with his grandparents in Alabama. Then one day he gets his dream and takes a train trip north with his grandmother to Ohio to visit cousins. Though Michael has caught sight of a boy his age on the train, he isn’t allowed to go into the car where the boy is riding, because it’s closed to Black people. As the train leaves Atlanta, the “Whites Only” sign on the door is taken down and now Michael is allowed to enter the car. The two boys quickly start to play together and explore the train. They discover they have all sorts of things in common. But when the train reaches Chattanooga, Tennessee, Michael has to return to his own car and the sign goes up again. Luckily, his new friend knows it is fair and shares a final drawing of all people riding in the same train car together.

In a book that starts with the wonder of trains and the joy of a train ride, this picture book shows the impact of arbitrary race laws throughout the United States in the early 1960s. While consistent racism in Alabama is an everyday occurrence for Michael, it is the on-again, off-again rules that will catch readers’ attention as well as that of the train passengers. It clearly demonstrates the differences in the way racism impacts lives in different parts of our country, speaking clearly to today’s issues as well as that of our past.

The art by Ransome is a grand mix of train travel with tunnels, bridges and cities together with a diverse group of passengers and staff on the train. There is a sense of frustration and limits in the illustrations with the closed doors and signs that is replaced with a joyous freedom as the two boys explore the train together.

A critical look at our shared civil rights history and a call for us to do better. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick

Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter by Shani Mahiri King

Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter by Shani Mahiri King, illustrated by Bobby C. Martin, Jr. (9780884488897)

King explains fiercely and openly that Black lives matter, and that they always have mattered. He pulls examples from history, filling the pages with lists of names and accomplishments. There are political figures, artists, musicians, athletes and many more. He reminds readers that Black lives died for our country’s independence. He shares quotes from great Black minds, like Malcolm X, W. E. B. Dubois, and James Baldwin. He uses the refrain of “Have I ever told you…” to open another list of names, share another chapter of history, and demonstrate again and again and again that Black lives are valuable, they matter, and they matter to us all.

The design of this book is almost in two separate pieces. The first part matches the cover art, using gorgeous bold text design to share the words of empowerment that fill the book, that share examples of Black figures, their words and their impact on the world. The book also has silhouettes of some of the people, shadowed in vibrant color. Then the book turns to facts about each of the Black people who are mentioned in the first part of the book. These pages turn a cool blue, sharing details of their lives, quotes from each of them, and offering a glimpse into their greatness.

A dynamic and insistent book that affirms just how much Black lives matter. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy provided by Tilbury House Publishers.

The Boy Whose Head Was Filled with Stars: A Life of Edwin Hubble by Isabelle Marinov

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The Boy Whose Head Was Filled with Stars: A Life of Edwin Hubble by Isabelle Marinov, illustrated by Deborah Marcero (9781592703173)

Born in the late 1800s, Edwin loved the stars from a young age. At eight, he was given a telescope by his grandfather, and they headed into the Missouri night to see the stars up close. Edwin was a good student who loved math and learning about the universe, but his father wanted him to do something else with his life. So Edwin studied law before becoming a high school teacher. It wasn’t until after his father’s death that Edwin felt he could study astronomy. His first job was at Mount Wilson Observatory, the world’s largest telescope. There, he spent years studying the Andromeda nebula, eventually proving that it was a separate galaxy. Edwin continued to classify and learn more about galaxies, discovering that they move away from each other and that the further away they are, the faster they move. Eventually, the Hubble Telescope was launched, named after this man who studied the stars and increased our understanding of the universe.

In her debut picture book, Marinov shows real skill in taking a lifetime of accomplishments and making them accessible for young readers. She writes with a tone that shares the facts of Hubble’s life but also shares his personality, his wonder at the universe and the hard work and resilience it took for him to make his discoveries. As Hubble and others ask big questions about the universe, these statements are done in a silver print that elevates them and will have the reader marveling along.

The illustrations are done in a whimsical style that uses fine ink lines to share small details of large telescopes and landscapes. Using the darkest of black ink, Marcero illuminates her pages with stars that sweep across the paper. One gatefold opens to reveal a series of nebulae to wonder at.

A strong and interesting look at one of the most famous astronomers. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion.

13 Upcoming March Children’s Books

Here are 13 books for children in elementary and middle school that are being released in March. Lots of new faces and old friends. Enjoy!

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter

Amber and Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Julia Iredale

Amina’s Song by Hena Khan

The House That Wasn’t There by Elana K. Arnold

Infinity by Pablo Bernasconi

The Memory Thief by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng

Starfish by Lisa Fipps

The Stolen Prince of Cloudburst by Jaclyn Moriarty

These Unlucky Stars by Gillian McDunn

Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

We Belong by Cookie Hiponia Everman

Your Heart, My Sky by Margarita Engle