Secrets of the Loon by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Chuck Dayton (9781681341583)
On the edge of a quiet lake, an egg hatches with pecks and wiggles. Out comes Moon Loon, who learns quickly that she can float in the water. Her parents feed her minnows and crayfish, then Mama takes her baby birds onto her back to protect them from predators. As days pass, the chicks grow too large for a parent’s back and stay in the water. When an eagle flies nearby, Moon realizes that she can dive down underwater to escape. Humans come too close and Moon’s parents move to defend her, but the humans move away. Soon it is time to practice flying. When Moon can fly, her parents leave. But once autumn comes, Moon knows just what to do and heads south.
Salas’s poetry rhymes with a lovely effortlessness that keeps the focus on the loons. She beautifully describes the loon’s habitat in just a few words, sharing details of the loon’s growth process and how they evade predators. The fascinating nature of their first migration is detailed further in the author’s note that offers more loon secrets as well as selected resources.
Dayton’s photography is done in a fascinating way. His clear and brilliant photos layer together to form forests, lakes, trees, reeds and more. Done through cleverly cut edges, the images form a complete picture of the loons and their lives.
A poetic glimpse of the Minnesota State Bird and its northern habitat. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Lucy and her family have moved often, following her father’s love of new places to photograph. So when they move to New Hampshire and a house on a lake, the moving process is nothing new. On her first day at the lake, Lucy meets Nate, a boy who summers on the lake with his family and grandmother. Nate invites her along to help document the loons that live on the lake and soon Lucy is out on the lake every day. Lucy longs to be a great photographer like her father, who has left for the entire summer on a photography shoot. So she decides to enter a photo contest for youth, the only problem is that her father is the judge. As Lucy sets out to prove her own skill at taking photos, she finds herself on a different parallel journey, one that will reveal new friends, expose difficult truths, and one that is far more important than winning any contest.
Lord has written another exceptional book for middle graders. Lord excels at creating seemingly simple books that open with a premise and then blossom into something far more complex by the end. Here she explores several themes that center on families. There is the deteriorating grandmother who is aware of what is happening but unable to stop it. There is Lucy’s own family that is fractured at times but remains strong. There is a search for approval that Lucy undergoes as well as her own harsh criticism of her work. Through it all, honesty is overarching, an unflinching sense of reality and truth that makes it impossible to look away.
Beautifully written, the entire book is memorable. Lucy is a great character, a strong heroine who has self-confidence issues but is also talented, friendly and warm. She is a rare young character who moves often with her family and yet the book is not about her scars from that transient life. Rather it is about so many other things that that is just a small factor in a rich tapestry of her world.
Brilliant, soaring and honest, this book is another great read from one of the best. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Scholastic.
Loon Baby by Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Anne Hunter
Loon Baby lives happily with his mother in the northern woods. His mother dives under the water for Baby’s dinner but he is too little to follow her underwater. Loon Baby waited, floating and paddling. At first he is sure that his mother will return just as she always had. But she stays away and he begins to wonder if something has happened to her. He tries to dive down into the water, but keeps bobbing back to the surface. After diving so many times, Loon Baby can’t remember where home is anymore. Everything looks the same to him on the banks of the pond. Loon Baby has had enough and wails a cry that wavers and sinks. His mother pops up by his side, his dinner in her mouth. In his happiness, Loon Baby dives deep into the water, discovering that he can indeed dive just like his mother.
Griffin tells this story in prose that reads like poetry. It is spare, simple and ideal for young children. The story speaks to the panic a lost child can feel when their mother disappears, gently guiding children to the parallels between Loon Baby and themselves.
Hunter’s illustrations are a lovely mix of watercolors and lines that crosshatch and offer details. The green and blue colors evoke the northern woods. Pulling back to a larger view, they emphasize the lone Loon Baby as he seeks his mother.
A lovely book for preschoolers about being lost and being found again. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by Katie’s (Little Ones) Learning Lounge.