Blue Floats Away by Travis Jonker

Cover image

Blue Floats Away by Travis Jonker, illustrated by Grant Snider (9781419744235)

Little Blue is an iceberg who lived with his parents near the North Pole. Then one day, he broke free and floated away. As he floated, Blue began to see new things like sharks in the water and sailboats. His new friends helped him chart a way to use the currents to get back home. But before he could return, something happened to Blue. He started to shrink until he disappeared entirely. Blue mixed with the ocean water and eventually evaporated and condensed into something new: a cloud. Once again, Blue made some new friends in the sky and they helped him head back home. Were his parents ever surprised to see what he had become!

Jonker writes a lovely and simple story here that is entirely engaging. It’s a clever look at both climate change and the water cycle without any sort of lecturing. The climate change piece is handled in a way that demonstrates changes but without being frightening, instead offering a sense that one can return home again successfully even after one has grown and changed after leaving home.

Snider’s illustrations are striking. They use deep colors for sky and sea, creating waves, bright days of tangerine and pink, and nights of purple and black. The cut paper format works particularly well, creating strong shapes that will work well for sharing aloud with a group.

A water cycle book that is a pleasure to drink in. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Review: Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter

Our House Is on Fire Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter

Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet by Jeanette Winter (9781534467781)

Greta was a quiet girl living in Stockholm until she learned about climate change. Once she heard a little bit about it at school, she started reading and watching films to learn even more. Greta soon realized that the world was in serious danger of fires, floods, droughts and catastrophic environmental change. She was sad and depressed for a long time, then she decided to go on strike from her school to protest the lack of action on climate. She protested outside the Parliament building every Friday, at first alone and then with other students. Soon children around the world were joining the protests. The quiet girl from Stockholm has become one of the leading young voices for climate change in the world.

Winter makes this book not only about Greta but also about climate change itself. As Greta finds her passion for working on climate, readers learn alongside her about the dangers that climate change brings to the world. As with all of her nonfiction picture book, Winter distills the story of Greta into something digestible by small children. Her pages are full of illustrations with words that explain but never become narrative or overwhelming. Her illustrations are bold and fresh, depicting climate disasters in images on the wall, the dangers to wildlife in Greta’s thoughts, and also the resilience and determination it took for Greta to continue to protest when no one seemed to be listening.

A timely and strong biography about one of the most important people working in climate today. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

3 Picture Books Celebrating Nature

ABCs from Space by Adam Voiland

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

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

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.)

Review: Buried Sunlight by Molly Bang

buried sunlight

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm

Everything needs energy in order to grow and we also need energy to run machines.  This energy comes from the sun though it may be stored as fossil fuels underground.  The fossil fuels have stored that energy inside them and it is released when they are burned.  This book looks at how sunlight energy is stored in fossil fuels, explaining photosynthesis and the balance of oxygen on the planet.  It speaks to the way that oxygen was first released to the atmosphere and the millions of years that it took to create fossil fuels.  The book then informs readers about the impact of carbon dioxide on the planet and the resulting climate change.  In the end, the book lets readers know that the choice for the future of the planet is theirs.

Bang worked with Chisholm, an award-winning MIT professor on the information in the book.  Told from the point of view of the sun, the book takes a clear and scientific tone throughout, enhanced by the more personal point of view.  The information is compellingly presented and interesting.  The final pages of the book offer even more details about the fossil fuel process for those looking for more in-depth information.

Bang’s illustrations capture the information of graphs along with an artistic feel.  She manages to keep it scientific but also speak to the wonder of the process and the beauty of the captured sunlight energy. 

This fourth book in their Sunlight series continues the combination of science, beauty and natural wonder.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

love in the time of global warming

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Released August 27, 2013.

Seventeen-year-old Pen has survived the earthquake and tsunami wave in her native Los Angeles, but all of her family and friends have disappeared.  For weeks, Pen stays in her destroyed home, living off of the canned goods that her paranoid father kept in the basement.  But when the group of men come, she flees, aided by one of them and given a van, food, water, a map, and the promise of her family being alive.  Leaving her home, Pen finds only desolation and monsters.  There are giants on the loose, stomping around and leaving piles of gleaming clean human bones behind.  When Pen meets her first giant, she blinds his last good eye and flees.  She lands in a house where everyone is high on lotus juice and meets Hex who encourages her to dally there with him.  But Pen is on a quest to find her family, hoping that they are alive in Las Vegas.  Hex joins her and soon others aid her in her journey that is filled with love, butterflies, and danger.

A retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, Pen is a modern Odysseus on her own journey home.  Block’s writing is amazing.  There are passages that are piercingly true like her description of a mall: “The mall, with its greasy smells and labyrinth of silver escalators leading nowhere, always made me hungry and tired like I needed something I could never have.”  Her phrases sing and move, illuminating the truth beyond our surface world.  Block writes of crushes and lust and love in a way that speaks to what happens in the heart and under the skin, a blistering wonder.

Pen is a curious heroine.  She is a reluctant hero, at first unable to leave her home, then blinding the giant in defense.  The book is about her transformation from normal teen girl to rocking hero willing to put it all on the line for those she loves.  She grows in confidence and skill in natural way.  But much of this book is wonderfully unnatural.  The ties to The Odyssey make for a book that is monstrous as well as beautiful.  It is a tale that is unable to be categorized thanks to its genre-bending mix of dystopian fantasy, myths, and modern reality.

Block has created another amazing read in this book.  Her fans will rejoice at a new book from her, but this is also one that will create new fans.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Henry Holt and Company at ALA.