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.
Bear Goes Sugaring by Maxwell Eaton III (9780823444489)
Join Bear as she goes through the process of making maple syrup. Joined by her friends, Fox and Squirrel, who are desperate for pancakes, Bear begins by getting her tools ready. Both Squirrel and Fox don’t really help much, offering a lot of side comments and once knocking a hole in one of the buckets. That hole though gives Bear a chance to show readers that all sorts of containers can be used to catch the sap as it drips from the trees. Readers will learn about the type of maple used for syrup making, about the tools used, and then the process of boiling down the sap into maple syrup. Bear does this outside with an open fire and a lot of patience. The end result is sweet, particularly for the impatient pair who have joined Bear throughout the book.
Eaton excels at making nonfiction subjects jovial and great fun. His use of Squirrel and Fox to offer comical asides makes the book great fun to read. Bear herself is knowledgeable and unflappable as she reacts patiently to her friends and buckets with new holes. The information shared here is fascinating and delivered in a way that allows readers to really understand things like why sugar maples are the best for syrup and how many gallons of sap it takes to make a gallon of maple syrup (40!)
The illustrations are bold and colorful, inviting readers into the woods with Bear and showing in detail what the steps are to making maple syrup. Squirrel and Fox peek out from various places on the page, offering their opinions on what is happening.
Funny and factual, this picture book is not syrupy at all. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre (9781534428812)
This gorgeous photo-filled picture book demonstrates that frogs are alive and that frogs are beings. Frogs have favorite things like we do, favorite logs and favorite rocks to sit on. Frogs hunt for food, jumping and leaping. They hide in the shadows and swim in the water. Frogs may have memories of when they were tadpoles. Perhaps they head on journeys over rocks before stopping to sun themselves for a bit. They might sit and think, letting time roll past, slow or fast. All just being a frog.
In her author note, Sayre speaks to the anthropomorphizing of animals in books for children and the importance of seeing animals as different but also important beings on their own. Inspired by her neighborhood frogs, she captured their days and wonders aloud about what they think, remember and do. It’s a picture book distinctly from a human point of view, wondering about nature and giving space for those moments of though for both the reader and the frog alike.
The photographs are stunning, filled with vibrant colors of yellows and green. The frog is center stage, eyes bulging and occasionally leaping towards its prey. The motions are captured rather like anyone at a pond sees frogs jump with glimpses of extended legs almost out of sight.
Thoughtful and respectful of nature and our frog neighbors. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane.
On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman (9781541581180)
This picture book captures the joys of early spring. Using skilled photography as well as rhyming text, explore the various elements of spring’s arrival. Icicles begin to drip, snow becomes slushy, lakes thaw and snowmen droop. Animals react too with birds singing more and sipping from icicles, frogs peeping, and salamanders emerging. Crocuses start to bloom along with other flowers too. The entire landscape is waking up and celebrating spring!
The photos in this book truly capture that tantalizing moment where spring arrives. The majority of them combine ice and snow with signs of spring, offering those fleeting moments of discovery for readers of the book. The text is simple and reads aloud well. It lets readers get glimpses of animals in thrilling ways from piles of sleeping snakes to the chickadee in flight to snatch a drink.
Spring into action and grab this one to make your winter days a little shorter. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press.
The Bug Girl by Sophia Spencer with Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Kerascoet (9780525645931)
This is the true story of a little girl who loves bugs, written by her. She first fell for bugs at two-and-a-half years old when she visited a butterfly conservatory with her mother. She loved books about insects and noticed them everywhere she went. In kindergarten, everyone thought that bugs were cool too. Sophia started a bug hunter club at school and had her own collection of live insects on the porch at home. But in first grade, bugs weren’t cool anymore and the other kids started to call Sophia weird for liking them so much. Sophia was dejected and tried to stop liking bugs, but that didn’t work. So her mother went online and reached out to scientists about their own love of bugs. Stories poured in, supporting Sophia and her passion for insects. Sophia was now making news herself and also got her name on a scientific article, all because of being the bug girl.
Written in Sophia’s own voice, this picture book is entirely engaging. It demonstrates how finding one’s passion in life is a powerful thing, but that the world can also be less than encouraging if you are a girl exploring science and creepy crawlies like insects. The change from kindergarten to first grade is dramatic and impactful, even resulting in one dead bug, killed right in front of Sophia. The end of the book offers an example of the sort of bug book that Sophia would love to write, filled with information on a variety of insects.
The art is bright and fresh, done in watercolors on white pages. They move from full-page illustrations to smaller ones that capture events in a brisk and friendly way.
A book about following your bliss, particularly if it’s a trail of ants. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
The Hike by Alison Farrell (9781452174617)
Three girls head out on a hike together. It’s their favorite thing to do. They bring along a notebook, a flag and some feathers. At the beginning, they run as fast as they can, stopping only to eat some thimbleberries. They make leaf baskets to try to bring some berries along with them, but end up eating too much. They get lost, pull out maps and find their way again. They get tired, get carried, and eventually make it all the way to the peak. That’s where they let the feathers go on the wind. Then they head back down and back home.
Farrell captures all of the stages of a hike from the initial burst of energy at being in nature to the discovery of things in the forest to startling deer to making it to your destination after being quite tired by the walk. She adds all sorts of details into her book, offering images and names of some of the most common items children will find on their own hikes. The book ends with images from the notebook brought along on the hike, that show even more information about what the characters have seen and experienced.
The illustrations serve as a merry invitation to join the three friends on their hike. Filled with labels and details, they are worth taking the time to pore over with a child and have discussions about what you may have seen before and what is new. Various animals, plants and birds are labeled on the pages which are also filled with the exuberance and friendship of the three girls as they all take turns leading and solving issues.
Any day is a grand day to take this hike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Squeak! by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and Kate Harvey McGee (9780525518150)
When a summer breeze tickles a little mouse’s ear early one morning, an entire cacophony follows. With one loud squeak, the mouse starts the world waking up. The chipmunks wake up, sending a pine cone into the river. The trout jump. The elk bonks into a tree launching the eagle off. The sound of her huge wings wakes the bears, whose growls wake the wolves. The wolves howl waking the bighorn lamb who leaps high. Finally, the bison bellows and all of the other creatures in the area awaken too. Except for one little mouse, who is now asleep.
The author plays with sounds in this book as they ripple across an ecosystem in this nature-focused read. From the small mouse squeak to the huge bison bellow, all of the sounds are unique and interesting. Children listening to the story will love the chance to howl like wolves, leap like trouts, or fly like eagles along the way. The book is filled with a sense of joy and wonder as the series of noises awaken all of the animals.
The art is done in two steps by the two creators, one who did the black lines and the other who colored them in digitally. The result is almost like stained glass. The sense of the glow of morning light carries through all of the illustrations. They are united by a strong feeling of being in a shared place too.
A great read aloud for a group, expect lots of participation. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers (9780008357917)
A picture book fable, it tells the story of a man, Fausto, who believed that he owned everything. He set out to survey all he owned. He owned the flower, he owned the sheep, and he owned the tree. He claimed ownership of a field, a forest and lake. When he tried to claim a mountain, the mountain refused until Fausto put up an amazing fight and showed the mountain who was boss. The mountain reluctantly agreed that he belonged to Fausto. Fausto then headed onto a boat and out into the sea. He told the sea that it belonged to him. At first the sea did not answer, but when it did it disagreed. Perhaps one of Fausto’s fits would help, or will it?
Jeffers has written a fable about greed and an endless hunger for ownership of nature, land and water. It is a story about having enough, about having limits, and about even if you are as greedy as Fausto discovering those limits (hopefully before it’s too late!) There is a great pacing here where page turns are effectively used to show length of time and length of refusal to belong to Fausto. The text is incredibly simple and effective. Jeffers’ illustrations very cleverly use whiteness to convey things like silence and space. He has several pages that are blank except for the words on them, hanging in space. It’s a beautiful effect.
Another winner from a master author/illustrator. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Philomel.