If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino (9781626729087)
This poetic picture book dreams of having a horse. The entire book is dreamy and soft, a more spiritual and sense-filled look at horses than the reality of barns and saddles. In the images, the little girl meets a horse in a field and offers him the largest apple she can find. There are moments of shyness and quiet as the two meet. They admire one another’s qualities of strength and gentleness. The little girl does ride the horse but not so easily until they become better friends. Then they head out together to meet other horses. The illustrations are done entirely in silhouettes filled with rich watercolor washes. The hair of the little girl mirrors that of the horse’s mane and also the blades of grass in the field around them. A beautiful dream of a picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)
Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton (9780763694838)
This picture book invites readers to think about the wide amount of diversity in the animals and plants that live on our planet. The book offers a small scientific facts on some pages, giving a closer look at things like mushrooms, microbes, elephants, and habitats. The book moves on to fill pages with images of different types of animals, one fascinating two-page spread has animals that were discovered in the last 50 years. It also explores food cycles for several different species. The book ends with information on how humans are negatively impacting species in the world and encourages children to be aware of how they can make a difference. Filled with interesting facts and vibrant illustrations, this picture book is an invitation to explore nature even further. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Trio: The Tale of a Three-Legged Cat by Andrea Wisnewski (9781567926088)
Trio was a cat born with only three legs. Even though he was missing a hind leg, he still managed to fully explore the chicken coop that he lived in with his siblings and a flock of chickens. Trio liked to explore the world like a chicken would with dust baths and eating bugs. But he could not lay an egg like they did. When Trio finally got all the way up to the nesting boxes, he found that it was warm and cozy there. One day, Trio found an egg in the nest, one that cracked and moved. It eventually hatched into a very special chick. Told in the simplest of sentences, this picture book is filled with a warmth and strong sense of style. The story is based on a real cat who has three legs, though he may not have hatched a chick of his own yet. The illustrations are done in gorgeous paper cuts, that evoke the feeling of woodblock printing. With their organic feel, they add to the friendly warmth of the book. A lovely and accepting look at being differently abled. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Where, Oh Where, Is Baby Bear? By Ashley Wolff (9781481499163)
This picture book continues Wolff’s series on Baby Bear and his explorations of his habitat. Here, Baby Bear and his mother head out to look for food. But every time his mother looks for him, Baby Bear has disappeared. Again and again she has to call out “Where, oh where, is Baby Bear” and then her little bear responds. Readers will enjoy spotting where Baby Bear is heading and then where he is hiding as the pages turn. The repetition is handled nicely, giving the book a lovely rhythm when being read aloud. The illustrations are crisp and filled with details of their forest home. A great read aloud pick. Appropriate for ages 1-4. (Review copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)
Where’s Halmoni? By Julie Kim (9781632170774)
This picture book is done in a full-color graphic-novel style that will be appealing to children even beyond picture book age. It is the story of Korean-American siblings who head to their grandmother’s home to find her missing. They discover a magical passage in her home that leads to a world filled with creatures from Korean folklore. There is Tokki (the rabbit), Dokkebi (the goblins), and Horanghee (the tiger). As the children figure out how to get past each of the creatures using snacks and games, they come close to learning their grandmother’s secret. Sharp-eyed children will realize what happens to the fox at the end of this Korean adventure. The appeal of folklore combined with a modern graphic-novel style makes this book a winner. Appropriate for ages 5-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)
The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
When a mouse is gobbled up by a wolf, he discovers there is life after being eaten. Inside the wolf’s stomach, a duck is already living. The duck has a bed, a table, tablecloth, chairs and much more. The duck likes being inside the wolf, because he no longer has to worry about being eaten, since it’s already happened. Soon the mouse has decided to stay and the two have a dance party to celebrate. Unfortunately, this makes the wolf’s stomach hurt. He is spotted by a hunter and soon all three animals are in danger as the hunter takes aim. What can be done to save them all? It will take all three to save the day. Barnett has the perfect rather dark humor to work with Klassen’s illustrations. The story has a mix of fun and fate that will have readers guessing right up until the end. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy (9781626721784)
This picture book celebrates elephants in a way that invites readers deeply into the life of a newborn elephant calf and all that that baby has to learn. The book opens with the birth and then the family of female elephants that will raise the infant together. The elephant’s body is explored from the way it walks and balances to the way its ears help handle the heat to the dexterity of the trunk. Sounds and food are also explored along with the habitat the elephants live in. Throughout, the book offers scientific information in a conversational way. The book is almost like a readable version of nature documentaries where facts celebrate and delight. The art of the picture book is rich and warm showing the elephants in their habitat. It also shows scientific information about structure and sound that is presented graphically and with just enough detail for young readers. An exceptional science and nature nonfiction picture book, this is one stellar pick for library collections. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Review copy provided by Roaring Book Press.)
On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna (9780062657602)
A child and their mother head back to a small cabin on a rainy day. The child just wants to play their video game, but their mother insists on them heading outside. It is bleak and raining out but as they head into the woods, the rocks in the pond beckon them forward. Leaping from rock to rock, the video game falls into the water and is lost. The child is devastated by the loss but is soon distracted by some of the wildlife around from glowing snails walking in rows to mushrooms. The beauty of the rich earth below and the sun coming through the clouds above. There is rolling down hills, quiet time in the woods, and getting soaked through. Once back home, the day is transformed entirely into something new.
This picture book is an interesting look at the tug between technology and spending time outside. I enjoyed the child realizing that the world is fascinating and a place to explore that is far better than the small world of the game that they have already played. The warm little cabin and the isolation also add to the appeal of the book and the pleasure of a newfound way to spend time outdoors. Throughout the book there is a sense of quiet and wonder. That is emphasized by the images that fill the pages with trees, water, dirt and plants. It is rather like being immersed in a rainy day yourself. A great book to read and then set off on outdoor adventures together on a rainy day. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
The Pond by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Cathy Fisher (9781912050703)
Told in the voice of a boy who has lost his father, this book shows the connection of people to nature and through that connection to one another. The boy’s father had always wanted a pond in the backyard, but when he died all he left behind was a muddy hole. Ducks tried to land in the mucky hole and the boy tried to fill it with water, but it created an even larger mess. Then one day, his mother lined the hole and surrounded it with rocks. Soon there was an ecosystem forming with tadpoles, insects, algae and newts. When the water lily finally bloomed, it was time for the family to move to a new house, but the memory of the pond would stay with them forever and they would create a new one in their new place. Written with deep emotion both about grief in a family and also about connection to nature, this picture book shows rebirth in a very organic way. The illustrations are rich and lovely, celebrating the transformation from a hole to a pond with life. A touching and hope-filled book. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)
ABCs from Space: A Discovered Alphabet by Adam Voiland
Written by a science writer for the NASA Earth Observatory website, this alphabet book uniquely looks at satellite images of Earth to find letters. The author’s note at the beginning explains the difficulty in finding certain letters like R and B, because of the need for diagonal, straight and curved lines to be near one another. The book is visually stunning, turning from a brilliant green to subtle browns to oranges and reds. The end of the book identifies where the various letters were found and carries the reader even deeper into the images. A great way to mix science and letters together. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Simon and Schuster.)
Animal Camouflage by Sarah Dennis and Sam Hutchinson (9781909767720)
As you can see from the cover, this picture book is illustrated in amazing cut-paper illustrations. The book offers information on animals throughout the world and is grouped by regions. After the information, readers get to try to find the animals in an intricate search and find page. Then they learn about more animals and search for them. This is a brilliant way to immerse children deeply in habitats and looking closely at the animals and plants of that area. A gorgeous search and find with a focus on animals and habitats. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Review copy provided by Princeton Architectural Press.)
My Wounded Island by Jacques Pasquet and Marion Arbona (9781459815650)
This is the story of Imarvaluk, a young girl who lives on a tiny island near the Arctic Circle. She is part of a strong community that continues to live the way their ancestors had. Still, things are changing. The weather is impacting their small island, shrinking the pack ice and flooding the island. Scientists try to help by studying the impact and new barriers are put up, but there is no stopping the monster of climate change as it ravages the Arctic. The little girl imagines it as a huge sea monster, coming to gobble them up. For now, their homes are being moved to the center of the island but eventually, they will have to decide if they will leave and lose their community.
Told with analogies that will help children understand the impact of climate change, this picture book makes a large concept much more concrete and real. The illustrations with the monster of climate change bring to life the feeling of powerlessness and how small humans are on the planet. This book can be used for units on climate change or the Arctic and Native Peoples. Appropriate for ages 6-8. (Reviewed from library copy.)
The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (9781592702145, Amazon)
Spring has returned to the forest, filling the woods with all colors of green. In the midst of the new growth, something special sparkled. It was a gold leaf, unique and different. All of the animals wanted to have it. A bird got it first, planning to use it to line its nest. Soon though, other animals grab it and take it for themselves until finally it lays in tatters on the ground and then is swept away by the wind. The animals are so dismayed at what they have done. The seasons change and fall and winter arrive and go. It is spring once again, green and lush. Will the gold leaf return?
Hall dazzles with her prose, offering so many colors of green in a single sentence that it is almost like being in a woods and noting each color. She uses very dynamic pacing in this picture book from the frenzy over the gold leaf itself as it is torn apart to the sadness afterwards and the slow turn of the seasons. That slow consideration continues as the animals wait to see if the gold leaf will ever return to them.
The illustrations take Hall’s considerable list of green colors and convey them to the page. The images are lush and filled with rich colors that have dapples of sunlight, deep shadows and animals that glow against the background. The use of goldleaf for leaf itself is very effectively done, particularly as it is ripped apart and each little piece continues to brighten the page.
A book about wonder, patience and sharing, this picture book is particularly golden. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion.
Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr (9781847807267, Amazon)
This picture book is a retelling of a classic Russian folktale. In the woods, there stands a little wooden house with nine windows and a red front door. When a little mouse discovers that it would make a perfect home, he is soon joined by several other animals until all of the windows and rooms are filled with happy animals living together. When a bear discovers the house though, he is far too large to even get in the red door. He keeps trying to enter the house and climbs onto the roof which collapses the house and smashes it. What can be done to fix everything?
Corr keeps the text nice and simple throughout the story, creating almost a cumulative tale as one animal after the other joins in the group living in the house. For each animal, there are repeated phrases used and they approach, ask to live there and are accepted one after the other. This repetition is nicely done, not overworked and will make the story work well for very small children. The bear’s approach cleverly breaks the pattern established and signals how different he is from the others immediately. The writing is smart and effective.
The cover of the book does not fully show the brightness of the illustrations inside. They are neon bright and almost light the page with their neon pinks, oranges and reds. The red door of the house is wildly bright as are the animals themselves. The illustrations have stylized elements like the sun in the sky and the different trees in the woods. Toadstools and mushrooms carpet the ground that can be yellow, green, purple or blue.
Wild colors add a modern touch to this traditional tale. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Wake Up! by Helen Frost, photographs by Rick Lieder (9780763681494, Amazon)
This is the fourth collaboration of poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder. Once again, there is a focus on nature and its wonder. In this book, spring is the subject with new eggs, newly hatched animals, and babies galore. Frost’s poetry is simple and skillful, filled with rhymes and rhythm that carry the book forward inviting investigation. Lieder’s photography is wonderful, capturing that same love of the wild.
Frost’s poetry is particularly deft. She invites readers to explore the outside world, look up into the sky and the trees. She looks below the water and at seeds on the breeze. The photography follows these invitations, capturing eggs, tadpoles and baby deer in their natural habitat. The book ends with more in-depth information on the animals featured in the images.
Another delightful success by this pair, this picture book deserves a place in every library to help celebrate spring. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson (9781481415712, Amazon)
This picture book starts from the turn of the first page before the title page even appears. Questions are asked that let us follow the falling leaves into the book itself. The book layers words and questions, asking readers to look at the illustrations for the answers and creating rhymes that carry the reader deeper into the woods. The story follows a fox and a cat, as they make their way through the forest with an owl’s call haunting the air. Other sounds appear as well, inviting readers to guess what they are hearing and seeing. This is a sensory feast for children and an invitation to explore the night.
Jackson plays with language throughout the book. His poetry is layered and complex. It is created to be read aloud where the buried rhymes suddenly come through and the rhythms beat more strongly. Just as the book is about following sensory clues, the poetry is like that as well. You simply must give yourself up to the experience of reading it aloud rather than trying to control it at all. Throughout it is surprising, quiet and wild.
Tillotson’s illustrations are as rich and complex as the poetry. She crafts a wildness using perspectives and small details. Other pages are filled with darkness and near silence, then there is more to see and hear. Children will love looking for animals that they can just glimpse on the page: the porcupine disappearing into the darkness, the treefrog nearly invisible on a log.
A brilliant book to share aloud, this picture book is wild and free. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9781419723742)
A variety of animals travel on their way home. Birds fly to warmer places, escaping the chill of winter. Mice build nests in the grass that offer safety and warmth. Wolves hunt for food to fill their hunger. Rabbits hide in the brambles, chased clear by the wolves on their heels. They reach their burrow and safety. The next day, the wolves and rabbits are outside again along with the birds and the mice. All sharing a larger home with one another.
Cotton’s poem is delicious. From the initial rhyming stanzas on the first page, she builds a full story of the importance of home and the strength of parent/child pairs in survival. Throughout the poem there is a sense of arrival or approaching home, defined in different ways for the different species. There is also a focus on security and warmth, on being together despite the odds and filling small burrows and nests with love.
Jacoby’s illustrations embrace the natural setting. They keep readers from realizing that all of the animals are in the same area by using a different feel for their habitats. The mice are in golden nests of straw, the birds soar in the sky, the wolves hunt through a forest and the rabbits are close by. Then the final reveal of them together is like the sun returning, a beautiful reveal.
Gorgeous poetry combines with strong illustrations to create a celebration of home no matter what species you may be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.