Tag: adventures

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (9781481419451)

When their plane crashes in the Amazon, four children are the only ones who survive. Now it is up to them to figure out how to survive in the vast jungle. There is Fred, a teen who has always dreamed of exploring wilderness and of the fame that comes with it. There is Con, a girl with almost no family and even fewer friends. Then Lila and her five-year-old brother Max complete the group. Lila only wants to keep Max healthy and alive, despite all of his attempts to get into trouble. As they forage for food, they discover a man-made shelter and then a series of clues that lead them to a crude map. Having built a raft from wood and vines, they follow the map to discover another human surviving in the jungle, someone so angry that he may not help them at all.

Rundell’s body of work is one of the most varied in children’s literature. The unifying feature though is her ability to bring a setting fully to life for the reader. Here, the setting is incredibly detailed and readers will get to learn about things like eating grubs, vines that make your skin itch, the right way to cook a spider over an open flame, and much more. Rundell doesn’t just present this information, she injects it into her story, showing how rich and beautiful the Amazon is even as she presents its dangers.

The four young characters make a strong group as they work together to survive. Rundell does not give any of them perfect characters, allowing the oldest to wrestle with his wish for fame, others to struggle to communicate, and the youngest to simply be awfully annoying at times. This too adds to the realistic feel of the novel, and in the end shows that friendships can be forged with even the most unlikely of people.

Filled with adventure, wilderness and plenty of icky moments, this is a gripping and fabulous look at the Amazon. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

 

3 Picture Books to Get You Outside

Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine

Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Red Koehler
(9781629794938)

Three children are up in their treehouse in the dark with a flashlight. As the flashlight beam breaks the night, it reveals an adventure. The children head into a woods, through a tomb, on to a pirate shore. There are sword battles, a grabby giant squid, and finally an escape. Then they are back in their treehouse, sharing a good book by flashlight. The text quietly builds the space for the illustrations that fill the page with discoveries by the handheld light. Throughout, there is a feeling of wonder, of the light revealing things that may or may not be there. The illustrations are exceptional, showing the joy of flashlights in the dark and the power of imaginations at play. Perfect to read with flashlights and then head outside for your own adventures. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Lines by Suzy Lee

Lines by Suzy Lee (9781452156651)

A lone ice skater skates past leaving swirling lines on the ice. There are curls and tight spirals and loose curves that feel like music on the page. In her red hat and mittens, the ice skater fills the page with her patterns. Then she falls to the ground and suddenly the page is crumpled up by the artist in frustration. Unfolded again, the page is wrinkled and smudged. But soon more skaters are joining in and the crumpled page becomes a pond filled with people enjoying the ice. Lee once again creates a beautifully simple book that speaks to nature, beauty and quiet. The use of the pulling back and having the artist crumple the page breaks the fourth wall and then turns the picture book into something even more interesting and fresh. This picture book is beautifully designed and very clever. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy supplied by Chronicle Books.)

Windows by Julia Denos

Windows by Julia Denos (9780763690359)

Windows light up as night falls in this picture book that takes readers outside to explore a neighborhood. A boy heads out to walk the dog as night falls, able to see into others’ homes as he passes by. He can see people eating, partying, watching TV. He glimpses a cat and a raccoon. Some windows are dark, some houses are entirely dark. Then those are left to his imagination. Soon he returns back home to his own glowing window where his mother waits for him. There is a lovely quiet to this book, a pleasure in being outside at sunset, the sky lit with colors as the buildings turn dark with windows alight. The illustrations are beautiful, lit by the reds of the sky and the darkness growing with each turn of the page. Time for a flashlight walk in your neighborhood! Appropriate for ages 4-6. (ARC provided by Candlewick Press.)

 

Three Tall Tales in Picture Book Form

Humpty Dumpty, a southern twist on a classic, and a fresh new adventure await:

After the Fall by Dad Santat

After the Fall by Dad Santat (9781626726826)

After Humpty Dumpty has fallen from the wall and gotten as repaired as he can be, he continues living his life but with a fear of heights. He can’t sleep in his bunk bed or even reach for the cereal at the grocery store that is on the top shelf. He thinks often of the wall and finds himself watching birds flying. Then one day, he decides to start making paper airplanes. He practices and practices until he makes a perfect one shaped like a bird. But what will he do when it flies over the wall? Santat has a gorgeous way with pacing a story, allowing it to naturally grow and build towards the climax. Here there is a delight of a twist at the end, just enough to transform the story of Humpty Dumpty to another tale entirely. It is handled with care and precision, making the reveal very special. The Caldecott Award winner’s art is lovely here, done with subtlety and style with interesting perspectives. A traditional tale retold into something very special. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Marco, a young fox, had lots of questions about the way the world works. The other foxes weren’t interested in his questions, so Marco headed to the harbor where he found a ship that was lost. The deer in charge of the vessel admitted they weren’t good sailors and were looking for crew members. Marco offered to sail with them and so did a group of pigeons looking for adventure. The journey was harder than expected with storms, windless stretches and pirates! Their new crew weathered all of the challenges by working together and eventually found the island they were searching for. Were their adventures done? Not yet!

This picture book is so visually beautiful. The illustrations are detailed and lush. There are small touches throughout, a sense of vast sea and sky, and a wonderful playfulness that enhances the adventures. The text is restrained and allows the images to really shine. This picture book is perfect for young pirates looking for a new beautiful adventure. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)

Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes

Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes (9781580897181)

A southern take on the classic Princess and the Pea story, this version of the story is set in South Carolina. Ma Sally is one of the best cooks in town, known for her black-eyed peas. Her son John is interested in getting married and several girls are interested in him, but Ma Sally worries about their skills in cooking. So she sets up a test for them. It’s not until a girl from out of town, named Princess, enters the contest that John realizes he’s finally found his match in personality and cooking. Himes takes care at the end of this book to ensure that Princess is not just looking for a husband. Instead there is a focus on the power of women and her right to choose after getting to know John a bit more. The illustrations have folksy simplicity to them that suit the story. A great African-American version of the classic story that puts the choice back into the hands of the couple rather than the mother. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long

Super Slug of Doom by Matty Long (9781338054354, Amazon)

This is the second picture book in the Super Happy Magic Forest series. This book has the same tongue-in-cheek humor as the first as it once again laughs at fantasy tropes. In this second book, our heroes (the same ones as in the first book: a unicorn, gnome, centaur, fairy and mushroom) must face a new danger. Zorgoth, an evil slug who has been trapped under a rock (and accidentally released by one of our heroes), heads out to destroy the forest by drinking the Potion of Power. Our heroes must journey through different fantasy landscapes and eventually defeat Zorgoth, who is munching his way across them leaving a trail of slime. How can our hapless heroes succeed?

Long’s writing is over the top and great fun. He frames the book with a Prophecy at the beginning that predicts Zorgoth’s emergence and ends it with what has become the Legend of the heroes, which doesn’t quite match what the reader just saw happen. Throughout the book, there is humor sprinkled everywhere. Speech bubbles and labels add to the fun, mixing modern-day with fantasy world in a gloriously haphazard way.

The illustrations are bright and colorful. Entire worlds of fantasy are depicted in double-page spreads that contrast with one another. There is a dragon world of fire (filled with fire puns), underground chambers of jewels where readers can try to find the missing rainbow jewel, and ogres doing yoga and trying to eat our heroes too.

This is another wild and very successful romp through fantasy in a picture book. Share it with individual kids or very small groups so that the pictures can be searched for small details. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z by Greg Pizzoli

The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon by Greg Pizzoli (9780670016532, Amazon)

The author of Tricky Vic returns with another rip-roaring nonfiction picture book. It is the true story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who searched for an ancient city hidden in the Amazon rainforest. Fawcett had dreamed his entire life of being an explorer and as an adult took many treks into South America to map the region. They faced many dangers, such as huge snakes and natives with weapons. Many of the men he traveled with perished on the adventures but Fawcett survived. Others thought that the Amazon city was a myth while Fawcett insisted that it existed. If he found it, it would make him one of the most famous explorers of all time and one of the wealthiest too. This book tells his tale as he searched for the lost city.

Pizzoli has a knack for selecting real life stories that most people, adults and children, will not have heard of. This one is a fascinating story of belief and bravery, about a man who left family and country behind in his quest to discover the unknown. Pizzoli tells the story with lots of action and a sense of adventure in his prose. There are moments where Pizzoli allows the action to slow, the wonder of the moment to grow, and the dangers to almost overwhelm. It’s written with skill and knowledge, building to a conclusion that suits the life of Fawcett to a Z.

The book design and illustrations add so much to this nonfiction read. Done in a simple and clever style, just like Pizzoli’s picture books, the images add necessary humor to the book. The design of the book also allows additional information to be added on sidebars. Pizzoli uses his illustrations to also create moments of tension and drama, pausing the action for effect.

Smart, stylish and successful, this nonfiction picture book will take readers on quite an adventure. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Chirri & Chirra in the Tall Grass by Kaya Doi

Chirri & Chirra in the Tall Grass by Kaya Doi

Chirri & Chirra in the Tall Grass by Kaya Doi (9781592702251, Amazon)

This is the second book in this series that has come to the United States from Japan. In this adventure, sisters Chirri and Chirra ride their bikes into a tall stand of grass. Once inside, they follow a bee to its home where they get to taste honey sponge cake. From there, they follow some flower chafers to their home where the chafers share some leaf juice with them. When a lizard passes by, the girls follow him to his home and they make candies together. As darkness falls, the girls return back home.

Doi’s books are completely unique. The two characters react to nature and the foods offered them with wonder and curiosity. There is no fear here, just adventure and joy. The books celebrate nature and investigation. There is a strong element of fantasy as well as the creatures talk and cook, but that whimsical part just strengthens the honesty of the natural pieces.

The illustrations are filled with small details that make these books better for one-on-one sharing. These are books to pore over and enjoy together, discussing the details. The illustrations show close ups of the food and drink, small touches making them all the more appealing.

Look forward to book three this fall, this is a delicious Japanese import. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

 

Escargot by Dashka Slater

Escargot by Dashka Slater

Escargot by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Sydney Hanson (9780374302818, Amazon)

Escargot is a small snail who has one big plan. He has to get to the salad at the end of the book. Along the way, Escargot tries to convince the young reader that snails should be their favorite animal. They will have to ignore the trails of slime on the page and focus on how very brave snails are and maybe how fast? The reader helps Escargot along the way, testing out ferocious faces, given him a little push, and offering kisses too. By the time Escargot reaches the salad, he will have won their hearts, just in time to try a new vegetable together.

Slater cleverly combines several themes in this picture book and melds them in such a way that they work seamlessly with one another. There is the interactive piece of the book that ask the child to participate and impact the story. There is the favorite animal part that is engaging and funny, filled with enough action and interaction to keep even restless children busy. The final aspect is the bravery piece, trying something new and being a friend.

Hanson’s illustrations add to the appeal of the book. Escargot wears a jaunty striped shirt, red scarf tied at his neck and a beret. He oozes French appeal and confidence even as he is willing to ask for help. He is expressive with his wide eyes and tilting antennae that he uses to gesture.

A stellar if slimy little hero that will wend his way onto your favorite animal list in no time, this picture book will work best with a small group or one-on-one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.