Circle by Jeannie Baker (InfoSoup)
As a young boy in a wheelchair dreams of flying, a godwit takes off from the beach. The bird embarks on a journey from Australia or New Zealand to the Arctic and then back again, performing the longest unbroken migration in the world. The reader gets to see the long and arduous flight with only one stop to eat along the way. The godwit reaches the Arctic where he attracts a mate and has chicks, but not all of them survive the predators. The chick who survives is left behind by his parents to make the journey separately as the godwit returns to the air to fly back south.
The bulk of the book is on the remarkable godwit and his story of grit and resilience on his journty. Framing that story though is the story of a boy and his recovery, allowing the bird to speak to the importance of endurance and spirit as anyone is facing difficulty. The text is poetic and lush, containing evocative phrasing like “they follow an ancient, invisible pathway” and “One chick hides, crouched and still, disappearing into the colors of the land.”
Baker’s art is simply awe-inspiring. Using collages, she creates entire worlds on the page. The tundra in the Arctic has individual blades of grass that fade into mosses and lichen while the godwit tries to defend his nest against a fox. Other pages capture landmarks like the Great Barrier Reef. There are northern mountain ranges, large cities and southern beaches. The illustrations are incredible.
A noteworthy picture book, this book is filled with information on a remarkable animal accompanied by exceptional illustrations. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh
Released May 7, 2013.
Papa Rabbit had traveled north to find work when the rains didn’t come one year. Finally, after two years, he was returning home to his family. A party was planned with food and music, but Papa Rabbit didn’t come back. When the other rabbits went to sleep, Pancho Rabbit set out to find his father. He took with him his father’s favorite meal of mole, rice and beans, tortillas, and a jug of aguamiel. As he traveled, Pancho met a coyote, who offered to help him reach his father. The coyote demanded payment of the mole up front, then taking Pancho to the train tracks where they jumped a train. As the journey continued, the coyote demanded food after each part of the journey until Pancho was out of food. Then Pancho himself was the only food for the coyote to demand. This allegorical tale of migrant workers coming to the United States is a powerful look at the dangers they face and the love that drives them.
Tonatiuh writes with a strength here, each word seemingly chosen for its impact and power. The importance of this sort of story for young children cannot be ignored. This book carefully dresses the horrors of the story in folktales, but the purpose is still clear. Those folktale devices are particularly effective in a story such as this, allowing the reader to see the dangers but not be overwhelmed by them. The use of the different pieces of food as payment is particularly clever as is the character of the coyote being that animal.
The illustrations convey the folktale structure as well. Done in a flattened style, they have strong lines and shapes. Tonatiuh makes clever use of textures like jean material, tires, fur and textured paper. This added touch ensures that readers recognize the modern nature of the tale.
This book belongs in every library since it deals with a current issue that affects many in our communities directly. Teachers will find this book especially useful when discussion immigration as well. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration by Nick Dowson, illustrated by Patrick Benson
This poetic look at the amazing Arctic starts with the deep winter and the few animals who survive there year round. Then spring comes to the Arctic and the sun comes back along with some warmth. Plants start to appear from under the snow. Soon more animals will arrive. The first to head out on their journey are the gray whales, that swim from Mexico to the Arctic Circle. Birds head north too in flocks. Herds of pregnant caribou journey north, followed closely by the gray wolves looking for weakness. Walrus, narwhal, schools of fish, all of this life crowds the Arctic summer until the weather turns cold and brutal again, and once more they head back around the world.
Dowson’s words are poetry in this book. Not only written in verse form, they also speak to the soul of the Arctic, the beauty of the place and the glory of the creatures who live there. At the same time, the words are scientific and filled with information about the place and the animals. It is an elegant combination of poem and fact.
Benson’s art is striking. He created paintings that are both natural and accurate but also have a sense of artistry. Much of the art is about the landscape, the place itself and the grand amount of space there. The illustrations of bitter winter are cold and bleak with dim, gray light. Then the reader turns the page and it is spring with its lemony light and sprigs of green. The change is striking to the reader and beautifully captured. There are moments like this throughout the book.
A striking mix of poetry, art and science, this book will speak to a range of different children looking to understand their world a little better. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.