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.

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.

We All Play by Julie Flett

We All Play by Julie Flett (9781771646079)

Children and animals both love to play. This picture book incorporates Cree words into the narrative. Animals play in the grass, hopping, sniffing, sneaking. They peek and peep. Children play too, leaping through the grass or laying down in it. Animals swim and so do children. Animals slide and rumble and wiggle, just like children sledding in the snow. Animals settle down, roosting and yawning, finally falling asleep. Children do too.

Told in very simple language, woven with Cree words, this picture book shows the connection the natural world and its value to children in particular. The Cree words repeat with the children themselves saying them, something that would be great to do in a story time when this book is shared. The illustrations show a diverse group of children playing outside, acting just like the animals. A glossary of Cree words is offered at the end of the book along with a list of the animals who appear on the pages.

A frolic of a picture book that speaks to the importance of outdoor play. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.

The Perfect Plan by Leah Gilbert

The Perfect Plan by Leah Gilbert (9781547605262)

Maya dreams of having the “most incredible and wonderful” fort in the woods. So she researches, designs, plans and gathers supplies. Then she found the perfect spot in the woods for it. But when she started trying to build the fort, it didn’t turn out the way she had planned. But Maya didn’t give up. She went to the beavers at the river and asked them for help. They soon had plenty of branches, but they were too heavy to move. Maya spotted a moose in the trees and asked the moose to help them lift the branches high into the trees. But none of them could climb well enough. So Maya asked the bears for help. Soon they had a frame, but it wouldn’t stay in place. Maya and her team called to the birds for help and they twisted and wound vines around the frame to hold it. The fort was almost perfect, but then a storm blew in and Maya had to go home. Would the fort be ruined after all their hard work?

This story shows how working together and having each creature use their own unique talents can create something very special. At first, the book has Maya working in a solitary way with her own plans. That quickly changes when she needs help and asks for it. As the book proceeds, the words Maya uses to describe the fort they are building change too, to better reflect what that creature brings to the overall project. It’s a dynamic use of language, showing how Maya’s perspective changes with the help of others.

Gilbert’s art really reveals the magic of the forest on the page. Her illustrations are luminous with streaks and rays of sunlight coming through the trees. The greens are fresh and welcoming while the rainstorm is a threatening purple in the sky. The use of colors is very effective throughout the book.

A STEM look at building a fort with friends. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury.

Ten Animals in Antarctica: A Counting Book by Moira Court

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Ten Animals in Antarctica: A Counting Book by Moira Court (9781623542320)

Starting first with briefly exploring the continent of Antarctica itself, this nonfiction picture book quickly moves to the ten animals featured inside. The book is a dynamic mix of animals in Antarctica along with an opportunity to count them as they appear on the double-page spreads. First comes one leopard seal floating on his own iceberg. Two emperor penguins waddle across the next page, followed by elephant seals, whales, petrels, orcas, squid, krill, and fish. The book finishes with ten crimson sea stars that dazzle, bright red against the dark background.

Court has created a picture book that very successfully combines factual information about Antarctic animals with counting them. Her language is marvelous, building rhymes directly into her descriptive sentences. She also uses words that will stretch young vocabularies such as “courtly, portly emperor penguins” and “lumbersome, cumbersome southern elephant seals.” The language is such a treat to discover in a nature-focused counting book.

Court’s illustrations are a combination of printmaking and collage. The deep colors and textures bring the cold and icy landscape to life. Court also beautifully designs each page, paying attention to both ease of counting, but also making all of the animals look lifelike too. Readers will enjoy the additional information at the end of the book on both the continent and the featured animals.

Icy and delightful, this is just right for even the youngest of readers to discover a new continent. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Charlesbridge.

The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer

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The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio (9781536211153)

This wordless picture book tells the story of a county fair set up at the edge of a woods. From the woods, animals peek out at the lights and sounds of the fair as it is built and then filled with activity and people. At night, when the people leave, it’s time for the animals to have some fun. The raccoons sneak in a break in the fence and throw on the electricity. Soon the games, rides and food are open for business with payment in acorns, rocks and leaves. The animals ride the rides, staff the booths, share snacks and have a great time until dawn breaks. They tidy up and head back to the woods, but the surprised man who opens the fair finds plenty of evidence that something happened that night.

This book is so lovely. It takes the shared experience of a county fair for humans and turns it into something strange and wondrous. There are so many moments caught in the images here: a porcupine covered in sweets, a fawn managing to ride a carousel horse, a rabbit whizzing by on the swing ride, and a bear cub buying ice cream with acorns. One after another, the images are immediately iconic and touching without being saccharine. The golden light of the fair lights turns everything magical, just as it does when you go to a fair in person.

This visit to the fair is one that everyone should take, even if you don’t care for the rides. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

A Long Road on a Short Day by Gary D. Schmidt

Cover image for A Long Road on a Short Day

A Long Road on a Short Day by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (9780544888364)

One January morning, Samuel’s mother mentioned that she wished they had a cow. His father smiled, took his best knife, and invited Samuel to come along to find a cow for his mother. So the two headed out into the cold and snow. At the Snow’s place, they traded the knife for two tin lanterns. Samuel got to play with their dog a bit too. At the Perry’s house they traded the lanterns for a book of poetry. Samuel got to visit some kittens in the barn and got a doughnut too. They traded the book to Widow Mitchell for a pitcher, then the pitcher for a sheep when Dr. Fulton went by. At the general store, the sheep was traded for a pocket watch after Samuel struggled to get it into the pen. He was glad they weren’t keeping the sheep! The pocket watch was traded for a pony and cart. With the storm brewing and night coming on, they almost stopped, but decided to keep trying for a cow. Soon Samuel was picking out a cow in trade for the pony and cart, and he got to choose something else besides!

Schmidt fills this simple story of trading with neighbors with so many small details that the entire small community is populated with characters. Each has a reason for needing to make the trade and often a treat for Samuel along the way. While the road is long and cold, it is also filled with a merry sense of community and shared responsibility. When Samuel makes the hard choice to not keep the little pony and cart, he is rewarded with more than a stubborn sheep for his sacrifice.

Yelchin’s illustrations are done in full-color in this chapter book. They show Samuel meeting each animal along his travels, each animal (except the sheep) one that he longs to keep with him. The illustrations have a marvelous old-fashioned, country quality to them.

A great wintry chapter book with lots of animals and a series of marvelous smart trades. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Clarion Books.

While You’re Away by Thodoris Papioannou

Cover image for While You’re Away

While You’re Away by Thodoris Papioannou, illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis (9781662650055)

When you leave nature behind and head indoors, nature keeps on happening all the while. Mother deer may search for blueberries for their fawns. Squirrels might leap closer to their sweethearts. Lizards still laze in sunny spots among the strawberries. A fox may be asleep with her babies. Bears may be drinking from the river. One after another, the activities of nature and wildlife continue, even when a human isn’t there to witness it all. But if you do happen to be out in nature, stay quiet and still and soon you will be witnessing all of the small activities that make up a day in the life of the creatures around you.

This European import speaks to that realization that children suddenly have that things go on even when they are absent, and not just after bedtime! Here nature, insects and animals are used as the example with real impact, as they have lives just like the children do. Their bustling busyness continues even when a child leaves the side of the lake, exits the forest or enters their house. Papioannou uses marvelously specific examples, showing the beauty of nature and also the reasons the animals are doing what they do.

The art is fantastic, creating a modern and colorful vibe where each turn of the page is surprising. Readers quickly move from one animal to the next, from sun dapples to the brilliance of a red fox in a black cave, from a dragonfly near the lake to an owl still and hidden in the trees. The book is a series of discoveries, much like sitting in nature can be.

An inviting look at nature and how it carries on whether you are there or not. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by minedition.

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall (9781452137797)

Inspired by Blackall’s travels for UNICEF and Save the Children, this is a picture book guide to our planet. It offers a first-time visitor to earth useful information, such as directions to our planet in the solar system. The world is looked at through the people who live here, the homes we live in, the families we grow up in. It also features the world’s weather, schools, transportation, jobs and hobbies. Then the book turns to animals around the world and under the sea. It finishes looking at creativity, art, science and medicine. It’s a celebration of all that makes us unique, fascinating and worth the visit.

While the list above may sound mundane, in Blackall’s hands it is warm and energetic. Each item is marveled at for a bit, rather like picking up a gem and then moving on to the next amazing jewel. The entire book is a delight, looking at the earth and at humans as something to be proud of, to care for, and to adore.

As always, two-time Caldecott Medal winner Blackall’s art is remarkable. She shows diversity of humans and animals with such joy. Her characters always have a little extra sparkle in their eye or in the tilt of their head.

A grand tour of earth that invites us all to slow down and love our planet and one another. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.