In the Woods by David Elliott, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey (9780763697839)
Enter the woods through this book of poetry for children. The picture book volume shares insight into the different animals living in the woods. First is the musky bear, emerging from his den in the early spring. The red fox also appears in the melting snow, hunting to feed her kits. A scarlet tanager flashes past announcing spring alongside the cowslips. Soon the grass greens, the opossum and her babies bumps along with skunks and their perfume too. Porcupine and fisher cat are also there, quiet and fierce. Hornets buzz in the air while millipedes munch on rotting leaves. Moose, beaver, turkey, raccoon, bobcat and more appear here, each with their own poem that eventually has winter returning with deer appearing ghostlike through the snow storm.
Elliott chains his poems together leading readers steadily through seasonal changes as each animal appears on the pages. The focus is not the seasons though but the animals themselves. Some get longer poems while others get a couple of lines that capture them beautifully. There is a sense that Elliott is getting to the essence of many of the creatures he is writing about here. Each poem is focused and very accessible for children.
Dunlavey’s illustrations in watercolor and mixed media are rendered digitally. Their organic feel works well with the subject matter. Each creature is shown in their habitat and turning the pages feels like rounding a new corner on a walk in the woods.
A poetic journey through the forest that is worth taking. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.
Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Wendell Minor (9781547600823)
Told in first person, this is the story of a boy moving from New York to New Mexico. He wakes up to a mountain “striped in rainbows” that he didn’t notice there the night before. He knows that deserts are only tans and browns, so he doesn’t anticipate the colors that he finds. As he leaves the house with a guide book, he quickly notices the patches of desert flowers. He discovers an adobe house, spots a magpie in the trees, and notices the broad blue spread of sky above him. As he moves on, he sees a raven, holds a lizard, and finds a tortoise. Rock formations form new skyscrapers for him.
Grimes has created a love song for the desert here, filled with all of the elements that will fascinate children who either already love the desert or who have never experienced it before. She plays against stereotypes of deserts, noting the bright flowers that bloom there, the various animals who live in that habitat and the span of sky. Through the eyes of Jayden, readers explore alongside him.
Minor brilliantly captures the beauty and expanse of the desert in this picture book. He plays with framing his landscapes at first through windows, and then in a two-page spread allows the landscape to burst in front of the reader as if they too opened a door wide and stepped through.
An ode to the beauty of the southwestern United States and its desert. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.
Hike by Pete Oswald (9781536201574)
Waking up early, a father and child have big plans. A warm hat and coat plus a full backpack, and they are ready to start their drive. The two drive deep into the forest to a hiking trail as the sun rises in the sky. Along the way, they see deer, birds, eagles, butterflies and more. They reach a place that still has a little snow on the ground and have a snowball fight. They cross a river by walking on a fallen tree then pause to see the waterfall. After a quick snack, they climb higher, wearing climbing gear, until they reach just the right place to plant a tree. Then back down they go, the sun just beginning to color the sky as it sets. Reaching home, the two feed the cat, have some milk and cookies, and add their new picture to the family album.
In this nearly wordless book, it is entirely Oswald’s illustrations that tell the story. Shared looks between the father and child speak to their connection and the clear joy on their faces show how much they love this time in nature spent together. The grandeur of the natural setting is celebrated with panoramic views of woods and mountains, filled with wildlife. The entire book embraces the love in a family and the love for nature.
A stellar picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
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.
The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine, illustrated by Anne Hunter (9781536201536)
This gorgeous picture book introduces the art and skill of building a wren nest. Told in a folktale style, the book follows a Wren building her nest in a tree. Papa wren brings sticks, then twine, pine needles and small roots are added. A spider sac will help with keeping the mites eaten and a snakeskin wards off predators. Soft moss is gathered from the shade as well as feathers, petals and thread to make a soft bed. In this beautiful nest, eggs are laid and soon hatch, emerge onto branches, and fly away.
Sonenshine’s writing is exquisite. She focuses on the elements of the nest, lingering on beautiful language like “velvety moss” and “a scaly and thin reptilian charm” and “snippets of twine, spidery rootlets, and needles of pine.” This rich language is presented lightly on wren wings as they hurry back and forth creating their work of art and home.
Hunter’s illustrations are done on a rosy warm background that echoes the richness of the language. Done in fine lines and lots of detail, readers can pore over the illustrations to see the twine, needles, feathers and more. Hunter makes sure to take readers in nice and close, allowing them to peep at the eggs safe in the nest
A great readaloud pick, this book is a celebration of birds, nests and nature. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.
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.
Whoo-Ku Haiku by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Jonathan Voss (9780399548420)
The story of a great horned owl family is told in dramatic fashion using only haiku poems in this picture book. A pair of great horned owls find a squirrel’s nest and claim it as their home. The mother bird lays three eggs in the nest, losing one when the crows attack her. Now there are two eggs left to guard and keep warm. Soon two owlets emerge from their eggs, eating the prey that Mama and Papa bring to them. The woods has lots of dangers like hunting hawks and foxes waiting for an owlet to fall. Mama is there to protect them though, until it is time for them to take wing and find a home of their own.
Through her series of haiku poems, Gianferrari creates moments that build on one another into a full story of the first months of egg laying and owlets growing up. Focusing on the strength and power of the most commons owls in North America, along with their exceptional parenting skills, the book also reveals the dangers they face despite their size.
Voss’ illustrations are a gorgeous match to the beauty of the poetry. Illustrated in sepia ink and watercolor, with digital color added, these illustrations captures the various moments with skill and drama. The quiet moments are just as powerful as the action ones, filled with dappled forest light and the incredible creatures.
A marvelous book of nature poetry for children. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann (9780823442850)
On a summer morning, a new bee hatches in a hive. She is Apis mellifera and must rest before she can do anything. She eats and grows stronger, her color changes from gray to a yellow orange. Though she is destined to fly eventually, first she must do many other jobs for her hive. She tends to the larvae, checking on them and feeding them with liquid from her glands. After eight days, she changes jobs and starts tending to the queen bee. At 12 days old, she heads to another job and starts building honeycomb then fills it with the nectar the other bees bring in. Her next job is to guard the hive from predators and other bees from different hives. Then finally, on her 25th day, it is time for her to fly. And does she ever fly! She flies for over 500 miles total and visits over 30,000 flowers!
Frankly, I have never understood honeybees better than I do now after finishing this nonfiction picture book. Fleming writes in such an engaging way, inviting readers to wonder when Apis will actually get to fly for the first time. The various changes to Apis’ body as well as the variety of duties she has in the hive are very interesting and make the species all the more fascinating.
Rohmann’s illustrations bring readers right into the hive, seeing it from a bee’s point of view. His rich illustrations are filled with honey gold and bright summer skies that beckon to readers, inviting them to lean in even closer.
A great science and nature book, there’s plenty of buzz about this one! Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
A Way with Wild Things by Larissa Theule, illustrated by Sara Palacios (9781681190396)
Poppy is a little girl who loves bugs and spending time alone outside. Around other people, she tends to fade into the background, disappearing into the potted plants and the wallpaper. At her Grandma Phyllis’ 100th birthday party, Poppy hides in the bushes. She enjoys watching the party from there, seeing the different people as colorful leaves. When a dragonfly enters the party, it lands on the birthday cake, and Poppy claps her hands in joy. One of her relatives leans in and calls her a wallflower. Poppy wilts, but the dragonfly darts over to land on her hand. Soon everyone is gathered around and Grandma Phyllis declares her a “wild flower” rather than a wallflower.
Told with a great empathy towards Poppy and her need for quiet contemplation and connection with bugs and nature, this picture book celebrates solitude and being understood. All shy folks will recognize the rather pushy nature of relatives who suddenly notice a quiet child and call them out. The beauty here is that Poppy finds her own way forward with the help of an insect friend.
The illustrations are done in cut paper, paints and digitally, combining layers together. This has created organic-feeling images that have a wonderful play of texture and pattern. The finer details of the illustrations contribute to the layered effect.
A quiet picture book just right for reading outside on a blanket. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.