How to Find a Fox by Kate Gardner

Cover image for How to Find a Fox.

How to Find a Fox by Kate Gardner, photographs by Ossi Saarinen (9780762471355)

This nonfiction picture book explores the world of the fox in beautiful photographs. The text is a mixture of a very simple storyline of finding a fox combined with detailed facts about foxes and their adaptability in a changing world. The book looks at when it is best to find a fox, such as time of day or season. It goes on to describe what a fox looks like and what to look for when finding their tracks. You can also listen for yips or other noises. But most importantly, you must try to be very quiet and hope that a fox might just find you!

The text of the book is well-written and full of interesting foxy facts. Children will want not only the simple story but to hear about the details of the fox’s life and how to find one themselves. The premise of the book alone is an invitation that is almost impossible to turn away from.

From the cover and through the entire book, the photographs are the focus. They marvelously capture the fox with clarity and a real feeling for their character. There are images where the fox is lit by the sun where you can almost sink your fingers into their fur. Other pages have the fox looking right at the reader with undeniable intelligence. Simply beautiful.

One of the most enticing and gorgeous animal books of the year. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Running Press Kids.

2021 Youth Book Prize for Social Justice Shortlist

Goddard Riverside and the Children’s Book Council have announced the shortlist for the 2021 Goddard Riverside / CBC Young People’s Book Prize for Social Justice. The award “recognizes nonfiction books for children and teens related to urban life and issues that support values such as community, equality, opportunity, mutual understanding, respect, caring, and justice.” The winning book will be announced on October 18th. Here are the titles on the shortlist:

Cover for Art of Protest

Art of Protest: Creating, Discovering, and Activating Art for Your Revolution by De Nichols

Cover for Concrete Kids (Pocket Change Collective)

Concrete Kids by Amyra Leon, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

Cover for Pura’s Cuentos

Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpre Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories by Annette bay Pimentel, illustrated by Magaly Morales

Cover for Something Happened in Our Park

Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together after Gun Violence by Ann Hazzard, Marietta Collins, and Marianne Celano, illustrated by Keith Henry Brown

Cover for Tani's New Home

Tani’s New Home: A Refugee Finds Hope and Kindness in America by Tanitoluwa (Tani) Adewumi, illustrated by Courtney Dawson

Cover for Without Separation

Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alverez by Larry Dane Brimner, illustrated by Maya Gonzalez

The Fastest Girl on Earth! Meet Kitty O’Neil, Daredevil Driver by Dean Robbins

Cover image for The Fastest Girl on Earth.

The Fastest Girl on Earth! Meet Kitty O’Neil, Daredevil Driver by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley (9780593125717)

As a child, Kitty O’Neil loved to go fast. She loved running, riding on the lawn mower with her father, and swimming and diving. Though she lost her hearing due to a childhood fever, it never slowed Kitty down. Kitty grew up to be a stuntwoman in movies. She also set records as the fastest water skier and boat racer. Then Kitty set her sights on being the fastest driver. Her car was called the Motivator and it was rocket powered, capable of going over 300 mph, if Kitty could steer it at that speed. The woman’s land speed record at the time was 308 mph. Kitty went 618 mph! She became an American hero in the 1970’s even having an action figure made in her likeness. Kitty continued to be a champion of children with disabilities and held records in an incredible range of sports.

Robbins’ book about Kitty O’Neil is just as fast paced as her records. His writing is brisk, opening the book with Kitty in her rocket car and closing the book with her record drive. This frames the story very successfully, as young readers will want to know what happens on that historic drive. Robbins also captures the breathlessness of the countdowns, the danger of the drive, and Kitty’s own fearlessness. It’s a marvelous rocket read of a book just right for the subject.

The art, done in pencil, watercolor, acrylic and digital, get readers right into the cockpit with O’Neil. They capture her joy at going fast and breaking records. With bright colors, they also show the dynamic moments of the countdowns, the acceleration, the determination and the eventual win.

A wild ride of book about a deaf woman driver who became a hero. Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin by Stephen Costanza

Cover for King of Ragtime.

King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin by Stephen Costanza (9781534410367)

Released September 14, 2021.

Scott Joplin was a child who loved to listen to the sounds around him rather than using his own voice. He was the son of a man who was once enslaved. Their home was full of music with his father fiddling, his mother playing banjo and singing, and his siblings playing instruments too. Scott played the cornet. To find work, the family moved north to Texarkana where Giles found work laying tracks for the railway. Scott’s mother found work as a housemaid for a wealthy white family who happened to have a piano. When Scott came along to help, he saw the piano and started to play when he had time. Eventually, the Joplin family was able to purchase a piano for Scott and traded housework for lessons. Scott loved learning about the piano and music, but most of all he loved composing his own songs. He played all over town, and eventually made his way north to play in saloons and eventually in Chicago where he heard ragtime for the first time. Scott went to Sedalia, Missouri where he went to college and composed music. He tried to get his songs published and finally found a man willing to take a chance on a Black unknown composer. That’s how “Maple Leaf Rag” became a national sensation.

Constanza’s writing is full of rhythm and talks about music throughout. From his mother singing hymns to his family playing together to learning piano to getting work playing and composing, the entire book dances along to the importance of music in Joplin’s life. The writing also incorporates lots of sounds like the chirping of cicadas, the swish of brooms, the plink of the piano, and the OOM-pah! The writing is full of energy and tells the story of Joplin’s life with style.

The illustrations are bright and full of color and light. They have elements of quilts that fill the ground with patterns. The skies are blue with swirling clouds that dance in the sky. The towns are full of colorful buildings. Everything is inspiration for Joplin’s music, from the trains to the chickens to the flowers to the towns. It all comes together into one warm and bright world.

A jaunty and rhythmic biography of a musical legend. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

The Great Stink by Colleen Paeff

Cover image for The Great Stink.

The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem by Colleen Paeff, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (9781534449299)

It was 1858 and the Thames River in London smelled terrible. The problem was that the river was full of poop. The problem had started in 1500, when the sewers were emptied by men who shoveled them out at night. But the population kept on growing. By 1919, there were many more people in London and flush toilets are growing in popularity, but there is no way to get rid of all of the human feces, so some people connected their homes directly to the sewer, sending it all to the river. Cholera epidemics started killing thousands of people, but cholera is blamed on smelly air rather than polluted water, so they kept happening. In 1856, Bazalgette submits a plan to create large sewer pipes to take the sewage away from the river. His plan is finally approved in 1858 after a very hot summer causes the smell to get even worse.

Told with a merry tone, this book embraces the stink of history and shows how one man can change the lives of so many, rescuing them from disease and death. Paeff packs a lot of history into this picture book, making it all readable and fascinating through her use of historical quotes combined with a focused pared down version of what happened. Her writing is engaging and interesting, offering lots of information without ever overwhelming the story itself.

Carpenter’s art is just as stinky as can be. She captures the sewage entering the Thames, the miasma of stench coming off the river in the heat, and the grossness of dumped chamber pots. Against that unclean setting, a small baby is born and becomes an engineer who creates grand tunnels where the air is clear once again. Add in the macabre face of cholera and you have a book that is hard to look away from.

Fascinating, stinky and delightful. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Margaret K. McElderry Books.

The Shark Book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Cover image for The Shark Book.

The Shark Book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (9781328569493)

This gorgeous nonfiction picture book explores the diverse world of sharks that includes over 500 different species. The book defines what a shark is, exploring the various physical attributes that make sharks special including their rows of teeth, dorsal and other fins, and their countershading. The wide range of sizes that sharks come in is also featured. Size of shark is shown in comparison with a lone adult human swimmer, often dwarfed by the sharks around them. The book explores how sharks are born, what they eat, and then some of the more interesting species including hammerhead, great white, and whale sharks. Record holding sharks are shown and then shark attacks are discussed as well, while also stating the jeopardy that sharks are in themselves. This is a balanced, fascinating book that is sure to be popular.

From the Caldecott-Honor winning team, this nonfiction picture book features facts that have been chosen to draw readers into the subject. Readers may know something about one type of shark, but the huge diversity of sharks will likely surprise young readers who will find new sharks on every page. The writing is straight-forward and simple allowing the facts themselves to fascinate and awe.

As always, Jenkins’ illustrations are marvelous cut paper. He has a way of creating paper that creates watery ripples, dapples of light, or small waves across the sharks. The skilled use of humans as a way to show size is done at just the right moments in the book and not excessively.

Snap this one up! Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Clarion Books.

Child of the Flower-Song People by Gloria Amescua

Cover image for Child of the Flower-Song People.

Child of the Flower-Song People by Gloria Amescua, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (9781419740206)

Luz Jiménez was a child of the flower-song people, the Aztecs. She had listened intently to the stories told by the elders about their sacred mountains and streams and also about how the Spaniards had taken their lands away. Luz learned how to do the traditional work of her people, grinding corn on a metate, twisting yarn with her toes, weaving on a loom. She learned about the plants around her and what herbs were medicine. Luz longed to go to school, but it was forbidden for native children. Then the law changed and required schooling in the ways of the Spanish. Luz was a good student and learned much, still keeping the traditional tales alive as she shared them with the other students. At age 13, Luz was forced to flee the Mexican Revolution and live in Mexico City. There Luz became a model for artists, sharing her traditions in paintings and photographs. She longed to be a teacher, but was denied that opportunity. Instead she taught in a different way, through modeling, sharing her tales, and being a living link to the Aztecs.

This beautiful picture book pays homage to Luz Jiménez, a humble woman who became the face of her people. Amescua’s lovely Author’s Note shows the detailed research that went into this biographical picture book. That research is evident in the lovely prose she uses to share Luz’s story with a new generation. Her writing uses metaphors and evocative phrases to really show the impact that Luz’s presence has had as well as her strong connection to her heritage.

Tonatiuh’s art is always exquisite. Done in his own unique style, his illustrations mix modern materials with a folkloric feel. They work particularly well for this subject.

A stellar biographical picture book of a true teacher and heroine. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Fourteen Monkeys: A Rain Forest Rhyme by Melissa Stewart

Cover image for Fourteen Monkeys.

Fourteen Monkeys: A Rain Forest Rhyme by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (9781534460393)

This picture book explores the fourteen species of monkey that all live together in Manu National Park in Peru. They all live in the rainforest together and survive successfully near one another thanks to their different diets, different heights for their habitats, and different body sizes. The day begins with the red howler monkeys who climb to the very tops of the trees to bellow. The spider monkeys live high up as well, searching for their favorite fruits. Down near the ground, sakis race and jump. Each monkey is shown with Jenkins’ detailed illustrations, their space in the rainforest documented, and their activities and diet explored. It’s a look at an entire community of monkeys all living happily as neighbors.

Stewart’s writing is clear and concise. She has a knack for sharing fascinating details about each monkey, such as how long the howlers rest each day (18 hours) and that capuchins will eat anything they can catch. The book offers layers of text, including basic text that could be shared aloud while the more detailed information is also there for those who want to explore it. Even more information is available at the end of the book along with additional resources.

As always, Jenkins’ illustrations done with paper art are phenomenal. He can make paper look furry, smooth, veined and fruity. He’s a master at the craft, creating animals that are realistic and artistic.

This book doesn’t monkey around, providing great information in a gorgeous format. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.

Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Sister Corita Kent by Matthew Burgess

Cover image for Make Meatballs Sing.

Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Sister Corita Kent by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Kara Kramer (9781592703166)

Corita Kent was a remarkable pop-artist who was also a nun, a teacher and an activist. From a small child, Corita showed kindness and empathy for others and also a love of art and creativity. Her father wanted her to do something original, and Corita certainly did. She surprised her family by becoming a nun, discovering a love of teaching and training new teachers. She joined the art faculty at Immaculate Heart College, where she discovered a love of silkscreen printing. Soon her art was winning competitions. Corita continued to teach classes and make her own art, which spoke to social justice and against poverty and war. She transformed a rather formal celebration into one of bright colors and activity. Not everyone approved of what Corita was doing, and she surprised the people around her once again, asking to be released from her religious vows. She found places for her largest work, painted on a gigantic tank, and her smallest, a rainbow postage stamp.

While Kent may not be a household name, many of us have seen her work on the iconic postage stamp. This picture book embraces her unusual life, celebrating the decisions she made, the art she created and her voice for social change. The book cleverly pulls out elements of how Kent taught and created her art, offering unique perspectives gained by seeing the world in a fresh way. The writing here is engaging and offers a tone of delight as Kent continues to surprise and amaze.

The bright and vibrant art in the book shares elements of Kent’s own work. Her play with lettering and words appear throughout the illustrations of the book, filling tree trunks, coloring margins, and as posters on the walls. The entire book is a delight of collage, typography and riotous color.

A positive and affirming look at an artist who should be better known. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion.