Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos (9780525646570)
Nova’s big sister, Bridget, taught her all about space exploration and the planets. She is the person who has protected and defended Nova all of her life, from when they entered foster care to when people at school think that Nova is not smart. Nova finds talking difficult, so she doesn’t speak much at all, something has has gotten her labeled by their social worker as not understanding anything at all. But Nova understands a lot. In her new foster home and new school, her sister is not with her. Bridget promised that the two of them would watch the launch of the space shuttle Challenger as it takes the first teacher into space. But as the countdown of days to the launch comes to a close, Bridget has not yet appeared.
In this debut novel, Panteleakos gives readers insight into the mind of a non-verbal, autistic girl who struggles to express herself to the world though she is intelligent and full of potential. The author tells the story from Nova’s point of view which creates a real bond between protagonist and reader. Readers will find themselves wanting to protect Nova as she works through testing, new friends and a new family.
The novel is full of hope, offering a new sense of safety for Nova and potentially ways to communicate that she has never been taught before. The connection between the two sisters is also beautifully shown. The final scenes contain a revelation about what has prevented Bridget from coming to see Nova. These wrenching moments bring a new clarity to Nova’s experience in life and still result in a hope that she can move forward.
Beautifully written, this big-hearted story is a poignant tale of families and strength. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Wendy Lamb Books.
Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace
A mother bird wants her son Peter to come home for dinner, so she sends the message down the telephone line, literally. It moves from one bird to the next, but the message immediately gets garbled as each bird adds their own take. Readers will notice that each bird has its own interests that are added to the message and that the illustrations give hints about the topics that will be included that time. This is a clever twist on the children’s game of telephone, one that has hilarious results and a resoundingly satisfying ending.
Barnett takes a simple concept in this picture book and makes it extraordinary. His humor is great, making sure that each statement passed along by the birds rhymes but also taken huge liberties with the subject matter. When the ending comes with a silly bird where the message becomes much longer and incorporates all sorts of things from earlier messages, it makes for a brilliant break in the pattern that sets the final message up perfectly.
Corace’s art is wonderful. She shows the birds in silhouette on the wire, indicating early to readers what the story will be about. The illustrations range from close ups of the birds on the wire to more distant shots that show the human neighborhood beneath the wire. It is all done with great energy, humor and bright colors.
A winning picture book that is clever, funny and simply wonderful. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why by Lita Judge
Incredible displays of feathers, bright-colors and complex songs are all ways that birds communicate and try to find a mate. Some birds puff and strut, others have large wattles, and still others drum on a branch with a stick. Once birds have found that mate, they communicate their pairing to others using dances, clattering bills, or by providing food for one another. When eggs and baby birds arrive, the parents use flashing wing colors, trickery or pretending to be wounded to lead predators away from their young. The parents teach their babies to eat, fly and more with clucks, demonstrations, and plenty of talk. Celebrate the birds that live around your house as well as exotic birds that have amazing ways of communicating.
Judge has written a very detailed but also very readable book about birds. It has a wide range of species that are all intriguing in the way they communicate with one another. This makes the book engaging and great fun to read. At the end of the book are even more facts about the birds, that share their habitat and range. Judge’s illustrations have a wonderful playfulness to them, but also display the beauty of the birds with accuracy and skill.
A great pick for children’s nonfiction collections, this is an inviting book about wildlife that will give new and intriguing information to young nature lovers. Appropriate for ages 8-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
The Clever Stick by John Lechner
This is one sharp stick, very smart and clever. He is so bright, he writes poetry and enjoys listening to the birds singing. So bright that he is frustrated when he can’t communicate with the other things in the forest. Finally, he is so dejected that he just drags himself home. But then he looks back and realizes that he is leaving a trail in the dirt, and that he can use that trail to communicate! The stick draws a huge detailed picture that has everyone in the forest impressed. Even when the rain comes and washes it all away, the stick is still happy because he knows he can always draw more.
Lechner has created a smart story about self-expression and finding innovative ways to communicate. The book has a gentle sense of humor that works very well. It is a quiet sort of book, one that is more about brains than action, more about creativity and imagination too. The fact that the stick is special because of its intelligence is also a great message to send to children who may be hiding their own light in school. Lechner’s illustrations done in ink and watercolor are simple and clear.
A sharp stick for smart kids, this book is a quiet gem. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.
Also reviewed by Books4YourKids.