Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys by Mike Unwin, illustrated by Jenni Desmond (9781547600977)
Explore the many animals who migrate each year from all over the world in this nonfiction picture book. The book focuses on each animal’s amazing journey and provides a wide look at migration in general, the various types of animals who migrate, and the specific story of each animal. The animals include birds like the emperor penguin, the Arctic tern, the swallow, and the ruby-throated hummingbird. It also tells the story of mammals like the whales, elephants and caribou. Then there are surprising stories of migrations of crabs, dragonflies, and bats.
The text of the book offers real details of the animal’s lives and their migrations. The book ends with a map of all of the different migration paths shared in the book, nicely covering much of the globe with their travels. The information provided is fascinating and just enough to discover whether you want to learn more about that animal or not.
The illustrations are done in full-page color where the animals take center stage against their various habitats. From the Christmas crabs filling the street with their red color to the beauty of a mother whale and her calf to the woods filled with monarch wings, each of them are unique and just as interesting to explore as the text.
A fascinating and scientific look at migration and the creatures who do it year after year. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.
Can I Keep It? by Lisa Jobe (9781624146961)
A little boy finds animals in his backyard and wonders if he can keep them as pets when they “follow” him home. His mother addresses each type of animal by asking her son where he would want to live if he was that animal. When the boy catches a squirrel, his mother points out that squirrels like to climb trees and gather acorns. She helps him realize that the squirrel belongs outside. The frog he catches next likes splashing in water, so the boy releases him too after thinking about how he loves to swim. The bird likes to fly in the sky rather than live in a cage. The boy thinks about swinging high and how much he loves that. Happily, the next animal the boy finds is a stray cat who may just find living with a little boy exactly the right place to live.
Jobe uses a droll sense of humor in this picture book. The little boy says to his mother that the animals are following him home while he is actually trapping them in a variety of ways in the yard. The mother’s responses are clever and thoughtful without being heavy handed at all, allowing the child to figure things out on his own. The rhythm of the book is lovely, with the boy capturing a creature and each dialogue following a pattern.
Jobe’s art is bright and filled with motion. Done in watercolor, gouache, pastel and then digitally collaged, the illustrations are large enough to use nicely with a group of children. In every scenario with an animal’s preferred place to live, the little boy thinks about how he feels when he swings or swims or climbs trees. This is shown through illustrations and works very well.
A great picture book about respecting animals, engaging with nature, and finding the perfect pet. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Page Street Kids.
Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown (9781338349610)
Released July 30, 2019.
Brown returns with another look at wildlife that never get featured in children’s book about animals. Each of these animals is fascinating and Brown offers really interesting facts and tidbits about each of them. The book includes a kangaroo that lives in trees and can jump down over 60 feet without getting hurt. It also has beaked whales with peculiar teeth that hunt fish and squid. There are giant colorful squirrels from India, a killer marten from Afghanistan who can hunt deer, and a Chinese deer with fangs who can leap into trees. Page after page has an unusual animal that demonstrate that we are still learning about wildlife on Earth and that there are more animals than tigers, lions and giraffes to discover.
As with his first book, it is Martin’s writing that makes this such a pleasure to read. I find it impossible to read this book without sharing the information and humor with those around me. The facts shared are interesting and told with plenty of attitude and aside comments that make it great fun to keep learning. Each animal has data points too, such as size, what they eat, where they live, and status. Size in particular is done very nicely, using comparisons like dogs, cats and humans. Brown’s art gives each of the animals rather googly eyes and they often seem to be looking directly at the reader. They are shown in their habitat and often in motion. Other details are called out in images as well and are embedded in the text.
Smart, funny and sure to teach you something new. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from ARC provided by David Fickling Books.
Beastly Puzzles by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler (9781771389136)
So many guessing game books about animals are for very young children, but this one will challenge those in elementary school as well. Taking cues from historical descriptions of animals that were based on known animal elements, this book is devilishly difficult even with the extra hint provided. One might expect the animals to be unusual, but they are well-known animals like ostriches, polar bears, frogs, and kangaroos! Open the gate fold and discover how that animal can be described as made from all sorts of bits and pieces.
Poliquin’s description of each animal in terms of their elements is profoundly and delightfully confusing. A kangaroo for example is described as made up of enormous feet, an extra leg (for going slow), boxing gloves, rabbit ears, a peanut, a secret compartment, and a springboard! A large part of the joy of the book is being entirely befuddled by the clues and then learning how they all fit together. It’s not frustrating at all to be confused, but part of the fun.
The art has a great vintage vibe to it that suits the old-fashioned descriptions of the animals. It is modernized by the use of bright colors and a vibrant image of each of the animals on the reveal page. Cleverly designed with gate folds that add to the suspense too.
Fun and frustrating at the same time, much to everyone’s delight. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
If I Was the Sunshine by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Loren Long (9781481472432)
Two master picture book creators collaborate on this lovely book filled with metaphors and using opposites as more than just a concept. On sun-drenched pages, children and animals explore relationships to one another. Using “If I was…” statements, each of the verses delicately explore the inter-connective nature of the world around us. The book moves throughout a day, from morning through to bedtime. It shows various seasons as the book continues too, filling the pages with autumn apples, frozen lakes, and fireflies in the summer.
It is the combination of the art and the words that makes this picture book exceptional. Fogliano’s words are written with such skill. The verses rhyme without any forcing of the meter or the words, made even more difficult by the relationships embedded in each verse. The play of words is so deftly done, each combination is a surprise and a joy as the pages turn.
Long’s paintings are filled with light, whether it is the spark of a firefly or the gold of summer sun. He shows the relationships with various perspectives and cleverly juxtaposes the characters in double-page spreads that one can almost sink into.
A grand picture book that celebrates our world. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen (9780763695330)
In poems for two voices, this book shows the cunning, evolution and beauty of predators and their prey. From bats to frogs to snakes to hawks to spiders, the poems feature all sorts of animals. Engagingly, often it is sometimes the obvious predator who is actually going to be the prey. That is certainly true in the example of the spider at the center of her web who is being preyed upon by the assassin bug. After each of the poems, there is a section about the animals in nonfiction prose that illuminates the relationship of the two species more clearly.
I was amazed to discover that this is biologist Buhrman-Deever’s first book for children. Her two-voice poems are very effective and could easily be used in classroom activities to be shared aloud by pairs of children who will enjoy being predators and prey since so many of the animals featured are very fascinating. She gives voice to the animals in her poems and then allows scientific information to be shared as well. The end of the book has a lengthy bibliography which is greatly appreciated.
The illustrations by Kitchen are exceptional as well, showing the reader the relationship between the two animals being discussed. They are realistic and dramatic as the animals stand off on the page. Several of the pages also have large gated pages that open to reveal the poem beneath them, allowing Kitchen’s full imagery to be appreciated without words blocking it.
A very successful mix of poetry and science, this one is sure to be preyed upon by hungry readers in classrooms and activities. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third (9781328557261)
The Pura Belpré Award-winning illustrator of Lowriders in Space returns with his first picture book. Little Lobo takes his dog Bernabe along as he delivers supplies around the market to different vendors. After Kooky Dooky wakes them up in the morning, the wagon is loaded and they head into town. Everyone there has a different job and on the bustling pages, readers can take a look at what different creatures in town are doing. As Little Lobo makes his way past the various stalls, readers get to see inside them even if they don’t have a delivery that day. There are vendors of comic books, puppets, hats, herbs, food and more. At the end of the day, Lobo delivers golden laces to the final vendor and discovers that his favorite luchadore is actually there!
Told in an engaging mix of Spanish and English, the picture book also has Spanish labels for different items in the picture and English translations to Spanish sentences at the bottom of the page. The entire book invites readers to try reading English and Spanish as they explore the market. The use of a strong structure like delivering packages allows the images to be more free flowing without losing the story line.
The pace of the book is brisk and yet readers will need to linger over the illustrations and explore them fully. They have the busy nature of a Richard Scarry with a modern feel. Exploring the various animals on the page is great fun as is looking at the smaller stories being told in images only as Lobo goes through the market.
A top pick for this year, every library should have this rich and vibrant book. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Monkey on the Run by Leo Timmers (9781776572502)
In this wordless picture book, Papa Monkey and his little monkey are heading home from school in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The two of them are aboard his banana-cycle with a sidecar for little monkey. But from the beginning, the little one is engaging with the other vehicles along the way. He leaps on to a firetruck that is fighting a fire on another vehicle while driving. He takes a piece of cake from a royal car with a mobile kitchen and waiters. He munches the cake in the crow’s nest of a boat with wheels. He dodges a rooster after seeing a police chase. He dangles above an ambulance, gets ice cream from an ice cream truck, and ends up with a perfect wrapped present for his mother along the way.
Timmers’ traffic filled with inventive vehicles will remind readers of Richard Scarry’s Busy Town. This art though is much more modern and the interaction between the vehicles is more robust. There is a lovely logic to each vehicle, a little story being told to the reader who slows down to explore each one. The bustle and rush of the traffic would seem to make a fast-paced book, but this is one to linger over and enjoy following the adventures of a little monkey through the wildness of the different modes of transportation.
If you have a little one obsessed with vehicles, the humor and wonder here is sure to entice them. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Gecko Press.
The Great Indoors by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Ruth Chan (9781368000833)
When the humans head out on vacation, the animals move in for their own holiday time. The beavers head to the kitchen to make plenty of snacks for everyone. The deer set up a dance party. A teen bear takes over the bathroom to curl her hair. The skunks used their cell phones. The bears used the humans’ tools to build things. Now there was no peace and quiet, no lack of screen time, and everything the indoor life had to offer. But as the week goes on, the parties and life of ease turn into one big mess. At the end of the week, it is clear that the animals are looking forward to returning to the peace of the outdoors. But what happens when the humans get home?
Told with a broad sense of humor, this picture book turns a lens on our own lifestyles and vacations. The joy of the animals at their return to the ease of electricity, TVs, cell phones and more is a great start to the book. As the vacation goes on though, the toll those options take is clear. Yet the book is not a lecture on modern convenience as the tone is kept light and humorous.
Chan’s art is marvelous, playing up the humor of the situation. From the tower of ice cream buckets arriving to the final mess of the house, the illustrations add so much to this picture book. Butter-licking deer, broken beds, nacho cheese in a toaster and more add to the final chaos.
A giggle of a book, this is a good one to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Disney Hyperion.