Tag: animals

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

The Road Home by Katie Cotton

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.

Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel

Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel

Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel (9780062351265)

When Olga discovers an unusual creature, she soon realizes as she researches it that she has potentially discovered a new species. She dubs the species olgamus ridiculus and names her particular specimen “Meh” because of the noise he makes. Olga knows some things about Meh, she knows he has rainbow-colored poop, that he smells bad, that he loves to sleep in buckets, and that he can hold things with his tail. Unfortunately though, Olga doesn’t know what to feed him and he has rejected almost everything she has. Luckily though, Olga has friends in her community to help, even if she personally prefers animals to humans, including a librarian, an owner of an unusual food store, and maybe even a new boy she just met. It will take all of them to figure out the answers to Meh along with some help from unlikely people as well.

Gravel embraces the science of discovering a new creature in this elementary-school novel. The book keeps a light and playful tone as it demonstrates the process of discovery, research and investigation. Olga is a character who embraces her role as a scientist, taking it very seriously that things are documented appropriately as she works through figuring out Meh and his species. Throughout the book, humor and silliness prevail, making it very readable.

The use of plenty of illustrations makes this book all the more approachable for children. The illustrations almost create a graphic novel here, creating even more of the playful tone of the text. The illustrations are colored only with pink and red and drawn in a loose cartoon style that works well.

A welcome addition of a young female scientist as a main character of an elementary graphic novel. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown

Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown.jpg

Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown

This book doesn’t include any koalas or bears or bison or tigers. Instead it’s full of mammals who tend to be ignored. In fact, I guarantee that there are animals here that you’ve never even heard of! All of them are amazing but for very different reasons. There’s the Cuban Solenodon, an insectivore with a poisonous bite. There’s the impossible to find and count Sand Cat who lives in the deserts of Africa and Central Asia. There’s the stinky Zorilla who can be smelled up to a mile away. Turning the pages of this book is a journey of discovery that is just right for any kid tired of the same old popular animals and up for a look at truly wild animals.

Brown’s tone in the book is masterful. He uses humor perfectly, creating moments of asides that made me guffaw aloud. This is one of the rare nonfiction animal books for children that you won’t mind reading aloud, even multiple times! It is full of fun facts, interesting tidbits and then that zing of humor that makes it entirely enjoyable. Brown picks his animals carefully, offering just the right amount of detail on each animal and then moving on merrily to the next.

Brown’s illustrations contribute to some of the best humor in the book. He uses images that are similar to mug shots of the various animals to show their similarities and differences to more familiar animals. He also uses comic-like speech bubbles and frames to create silly asides that add immensely to the appeal.

A delight of a nonfiction book about animals, here’s hoping that it’s the first in a series. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

 

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

me-and-marvin-gardens-by-amy-sarig-king

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King (InfoSoup)

Everything has changed for Obe over the last few years. His family’s farmland has turned into a housing development. His best friend is now friends with the kids living in the new development. He has constant nose bleeds caused by something he doesn’t like to talk about, but it has a lot to do with his ex-friend and the new development. Obe spends a lot of time at the creek on his family’s remaining property, cleaning up the trash left by others. Then he meets an unusual animal. It is an odd mix of pig and dog and it eats plastic. Obe names the animal “Marvin Gardens” and knows that he has to keep it a secret from everyone. But when his ex-friend discovers the animal too, Obe has to decide who to trust and who can help Marvin Gardens survive.

A.S. King is best known as a writer for teens. She has made a lovely transition to middle-grade writing here in a novel of environmentalism and self-acceptance. King wrestles with the problems of middle-grade friendships, the loss of green space, and the question of how one kid can make an impact on climate change or even on his local environment. Throughout, her writing is a call for action, for personal responsibility and for staying true to what is important to you as a person.

Obe is a fascinating protagonist. At first, he seems young and naive, but as the book progresses, one realizes that he is simply interested in the environment, understands deeply changing friendships, stands up for others, and speaks out for the rights of animals and nature. King manages this without giving Obe a major shift or change, rather it is the reader who grows and changes and understands the character in a different way. It’s all thanks to King’s skill as an author, her way of showing adults as fools at times, and her willingness to allow Obe to simply be himself.

A strong book about the environment and a rousing call to be responsible for your own patch of earth, this will be a joy to share aloud in a classroom or with children who love nature and don’t mind a bit of muck on their shoes. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

 

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony by Ellen Potter, illustrated by Qin Leng

Released August 16, 2016.

Piper sets off on her third adventure living on her small island home. When she visits the Fairy Tree, she discovers a strange whistle inside. Unfortunately though, Piper doesn’t want a whistle. She wants a pony! And the first pony  just arrived on the island that day. Piper was also hoping to spend time with her big brother who is home from school, but he isn’t feeling well so Piper decides to try to make him the treat that her mother makes her when she is sick. They don’t turn out quite the same way. When Piper’s dad needs help on his fishing boat, Piper leaps to help and discovers two things along the way, one that has her dreaming of riding something other than a pony and the other that will help her family even more than her loud whistle does.

Potter has just the right feel in the books in this series. Piper is wonderfully engaging as a protagonist. She is imaginative, funny and entirely herself. Even as Piper is making silly mistakes, the book does not make fun of her, rather it laughs along with her and looks at the errors we all make in our lives. It’s a book of empathy, humor and the importance of family and community.

Leng’s illustrations offer young readers a refreshing break from the text, giving them just the right amount of space. They are done in a framed style in either half-page or full-page format. The chapter breaks too are done with style, offering stripes to invite readers to turn more pages and follow the story further.

Another winner in this charmer of a series that is just right for children who enjoy Clementine. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from ARC received from Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (InfoSoup)

A ship carrying crates of robots capsizes in the ocean. Some of the crates float, only to be dashed on the rocks of a small island. One crate though survives and is left safely on the island. Some curious otters explore the crate and accidentally turn on the robot inside. That robot is Roz, designed to ensure her survival and help people. Soon Roz is exploring the island, climbing high on the rocks to see her surroundings. As she explores, the animals of the island declare her a monster and avoid her. Roz begins to acclimate to the island, figuring out how to camouflage herself. It is by sitting still and hidden that she starts to learn the language of the animals around her. As time passes, Roz is no longer gleaming and clean and she can speak with the animals. It isn’t until a deadly accident happens though that Roz shows the island residents who she really is.

This book is entirely magnificent. It is a book about nature, its beauty and grandeur and danger. It is a meditation on the outside, the power of it to change even a robot’s life. It is a look at the importance of listening and learning and finding one’s own way forward in unexpected circumstances. But most of all, it is a book about love and life and the way that finding someone to love transforms each of us.

There is something achingly beautiful about this book. Yes, there is more than enough action and humor to keep the book moving and of interest to children. Yes, the characters are brilliantly created and their relationships are drawn with skill and attention. Yes, its pacing is exceptional. It that ache though, that makes this book exceptional. The way that it is allowed to just be there, loneliness and acceptance, loss and love.

Truly an exceptional read created by a picture book author in his first foray into middle-grade books. Wow. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

The Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan

The Moons Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan

The Moon’s Almost Here by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (InfoSoup)

A collaboration between a Newbery medalist and Caldecott Honor and Newbery Honor winner, this picture book is a dreamy bedtime read. As two people get ready for the moon to arrive, the animals around them are also preparing for bed. A hen gathers her chicks close and safe in their pen. The ducks head to the shore. Horses and cows head inside. Fireflies blink in the meadow. The dog and cat fall asleep. Then the moon has arrived, big and bright in the sky, just as the child falls asleep in the adult’s arms.

MacLachlan’s text is a poem that leads readers around the farm, from one animal to another as they prepare for bed. The animals are not anthropomorphic at all, but nicely realistic. She adds in touches of butterflies as well as the fireflies that echo the stars above. The entire effect is of tranquility and a slowing down as the evening arrives. It feels entirely natural and organic as it gets sleepier.

The illustrations by dePaola are filled with teals and blues, but also lit with moonlight. The adult character wears white with a white clown face as well that evokes Pierrot. It creates a surreal and dreamlike effect in the picture book, but is not frightening at all. The deep colors add to the nighttime quiet and sleepiness.

A superb bedtime picture book that works because of the virtuoso blend of poetry and illustration. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.