Over and Under the Rainforest by Kate Messner

Over and Under the Rainforest by Kate Messner

Over and Under the Rainforest by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (9781452169408)

This is the third book in the Over and Under series that explores ecosystems with children. The young narrator hikes into the rain forest with Tito, their guide. They discover the hidden world in the canopies of the trees, filled with monkeys, insects and birds. They cross a rope bridge that sways above the sleep crocodiles in the river. As they get higher, they see monkeys swing in the trees. Sloths ignore the rain as it starts to fall while blue morpho butterflies take shelter on the tree trunks. Everywhere there is life, small and large, predator and prey. The two people make it home for dinner, as darkness falls.

Messner creates a story that wraps the reader in the experience of walking through a rain forest. Every page offers new animals, the sound of rain, the sway of the bridges. She shows it all with such wonder and fascination that one can’t read the book without also getting curious and wanting to learn more. She offers that in her Author’s Note as well as providing more information on the animals in the book.

Neal’s art is vibrant and beautiful, showing the play of light through the huge trees. He depicts each of the animals, some well known and others that will be new to the reader. As fog descends in the book, it fills the pages creating mystery and beauty.

A journey worth taking. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Chronicle Books.

One Little Bag by Henry Cole

One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey by Henry Cole (9781338359978)

This wordless picture book follows the journey of one paper bag from its beginnings as a tall tree in the forest through the hands of a family. The tree is cut down, hauled away, ground up and made into paper which then is formed into a brown paper bag. Put into a box, the bag is given to a family at a grocery store. They take it home, draw a heart on the bag, and use it for school lunches. The bag is used lots of different ways after that as the boy grows up, taking it with him to college. There he meets a girl and they draw two hearts on the bag. It’s even there when he proposes to her. When they have a baby, the bag is part of the mobile over the crib, and a third heart is added. When grandpa, the bag’s first owner visits, a fourth heart is added by his grandson. The bag becomes worn and taped, but serves one last purpose that brings the entire story full circle.

Cole beautifully shows how small acts of reusing something can become tradition in a family. The book never seems like a lecture, always just showing and demonstrating how reuse is possible and its great potential as well. The paper bag in the story if remarkably resilient for so much use by generations, but I think we all have items in our families that survive despite being used by everyone, to be handed to the next generation.

Told in images only, the book is filled with fine-line drawings that shine with light. The paper bag is the only color on the page, it’s brown color becoming all the more warm and glowing and the red hearts popping with color.

A truly great wordless picture book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Scholastic.

The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord

The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord

The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Julia Blattman (9781947277144)

This cumulative tale focuses on the environmental impact of our garbage, or the mess that we made. Four children in a little boat float in a sea of nets, bottles, plastic and more. As they watch, a seal is caught in a broken net, a turtle is trapped in a plastic bag, and the landfill near the water grows and grows. Then the book takes a turn and shows how people, large and small, can make a real difference by cleaning up the beach, recycling, using clean energy, protesting problematic fishing, and cleaning up the oceans. 

It is the cumulative format that really works here. Lord never makes it into a towering and overwhelming “This is the house that Jack built” sort of story. She instead plays with the format in a shorter structure, creating a clear cause and effect for young readers both in the destruction of our oceans and in cleaning them up. The result is a cumulative tale that reads aloud really well and smoothly. Her twist of showing how people can help is a call to action that clearly shows how even children can make a difference in our world.

The art is particularly effective when showing underwater scenes and the huge amount of garbage in the ocean. The light from above illuminates the struggles of ocean life and yet also shows the lingering beauty of the habitat and the blue green waters. 

A strong environmental message about our oceans and our responsibility. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Oil by Jonah Winter

Oil by Jonah Winter

Oil by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Jeanette Winter (9781534430778)

This nonfiction picture book offer a devastating look at the oil spill caused by the Exxon Valdez. The book begins with the Trans-Alaska Pipeway that carries oil to the ocean. It’s surrounded by wilderness and the animals who live there. The oil is then transferred to ships, and one of the those ships had an accident in the clear water when it ran aground on a reef. From there, the oil spreads, turning the water and waves black, covering the rocks on the shore. Hurting the wildlife who call the place home. People try to help, but even thirty years later so many things are different, changes caused by the destruction of an ecosystem and environment.

The Winter mother-son duo have crafted yet another compelling picture book about a complex nonfiction topic. Jonah’s text uses powerful repeating choruses of “oil” that is almost like a drum beat of emphasis. He uses other techniques of repetition and design that speed or slow the reading of the text very effectively. The book is a mixture of tragedy and a call to action.

Jeanette’s illustrations are in her signature simple style. They work particularly well here to emphasize the impact of the oil spill, steadily covering the pages with seeping blackness. Some pages are left without words, just allowing the reader to soak in the horror of what is happening.

Powerful and tragic, this picture book is an important addition for libraries. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.

2020 Environment Award for Children’s Literature Shortlist

The shortlist for the Australian 2020 Environment Award for Children’s Literature has been announced. Awarded by the Wilderness Society of Australia, the award for children’s nature writing has been around since 1994. Here is the shortlist:

Microbat Mayhem (Eco Rangers, #2)

Eco Rangers: Microbat Mayhem by Candice Lemon-Scott; illustrated by Aśka

Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing!

Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing! by Tim Flannery; illustrated by Sam Caldwell

The Fate of Fausto

The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers

Fauna: Australia's most curious creatures

Fauna: Australia’s Most Curious Creatures by Tania McCartney

A Hollow Is a Home

A Hollow is a Home by Abbie Mitchell; illustrated by Astred Hicks

One careless night

One Careless Night by Christina Booth

One Tree

One Tree by Christopher Cheng; illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Ocean's Revenge (Super Sidekicks, #2)

Super Sidekicks 2: Ocean’s Revenge by Gavin Aung Than

Wilam

Wilam by Andrew Kelly and Aunty Joy Murphy, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

You Can Change the World

You Can Change the World by Lucy Bell; illustrated by Astred Hicks

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (9781250203557)

Two indigenous book creators have created a picture book that celebrates the North American indigenous battles to protect our water. Water is the the first medicine; it is where we all come from and nourishes us in the womb and on earth. There is talk of a black snake that will spoil the water, poisoning it. The black snake had been foretold for many years, and now it is here. Courage is the answer to it and the willingness to stand up and insist that water be protected. Nature cannot speak for itself, so we must speak and fight on its behalf. We can all be water protectors.

Lindstrom has written a book that calls out to be shared aloud. She has used an effective refrain: “We stand/ With our songs/ And our drums./ We are still here.” The importance of standing up and of Native people being visible as modern members of our society is vital here. The call to action in this picture book is also clarion clear and incredibly empowering. This book explains to the youngest children what the protests on Native lands are all about and why they are vital to all of us.

Goade’s illustrations are done in watercolor that washes across the pages in waves, swirls, and skies. The colors are deep and dynamic, showing nature in all of its beauty and demonstrating page after page what we are fighting to protect.

Strong and important. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan

My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Francesca Sanna (9780811879101)

Newbery-award winning author MacLachlan writes a lyrical story about her friend earth. Earth awakens in the spring to the busy sounds, seeing the seeds, insects and birds around her. She tucks in animals, reunites mother and child, and tends to the rich prairies. She visits the tundra and heads underwater where she guards all of the creatures. She creates rain to fill the streams and blows autumn winds across the trees. She sprinkles snow on the land in winter, watching over the hibernating animals. Then she falls asleep herself until spring comes again.

Earth here is shown as a young girl, playful in her relationship with nature and the seasons. MacLachlan’s text is marvelously detailed, pulling small elements of each season out to linger over along with Earth herself. This book is specifically focused on Earth Day without it only being able to be used then. It’s a book that celebrates our earth any day.

Sanna’s gorgeous illustrations are built into cut pages here. Readers awaken Earth themselves, glimpse her peeking through leaves, peer underwater at her side, and blow in the wind with the leaves. The cutouts are cleverly done, representing the changing locations and seasons with their forms. Sanna’s art is bold and lovely, showing a young brown-skinned Earth playfully interacting in the world.

Lush and lovely, this is an Earth Day charmer. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.

Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye 

Cast Away Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye 

Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shihab Nye (9780062907691)

By the Young People’s Poet Laureate, this collection of poems shines a fierce light on the garbage and litter we create and toss away. The poems tie litter to larger environmental concerns as well as American politics in the time of anti-truth and fake news. Some poems question whether technology is helping us or not too. This is a collection that is thought provoking and insistent that we begin to pay attention to the large and small choices we are making each day and figure out how we too can make a difference and start picking up our own litter, both physical and figurative.

Nye has written a collection of poems with a strong political viewpoint that demands attention. Yet she never veers into lecturing readers, rather using the power of her words to make us all think differently about our privilege on this planet, how we abuse it, and how to restore balance to the world, our lives and our politics. The poems move from one to the next with a force of nature, almost like wandering your own garbage-strewn path and engaging with it. Sometimes you may lack the equipment, but the hope is that your own fingers start twitching to pick things up too. 

A strong collection that is provocative and tenacious. Appropriate for ages 10-14.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books.

Review: Driftwood Days by William Miniver

Driftwood Days by William Miniver

Driftwood Days by William Miniver, illustrated by Charles Vess (9780802853707)

Follow the journey as a branch from a beaver’s dam heads downstream to eventually become a piece of driftwood on a beach. A boy watches in the autumn trees as a branch breaks away from the dam and takes a winding journey. It gets stuck for a frozen winter and then is loosened again and gets into the ocean. There, it serves as a perch for birds, gets caught in a net, and is once again thrown back into the salt water. When it eventually washes onto the beach, the wood is entirely transformed into driftwood. It is picked up by the same boy, who uses it to draw on the beach and then takes it home to watch the beavers next autumn.

Miniver offers an informational author’s note in the final pages that explains the importance of driftwood for the ecological system of woods, streams, oceans and beaches. The loss in the amount of driftwood is impacting these environments negatively. The journey of one branch into becoming driftwood is a clever way to show how the transformation works and also to highlight the various parts of the environment that driftwood touches and impacts. The art is done colored pencil and ink with deep, soft colors that will have readers leaning in to explore the nature revealed on the journey to the ocean.

A quiet adventure that highlights the interconnectivity of the nature around us all. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans.