A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel (9781452173184)
Described as a companion to his award-winning They All Saw a Cat, this picture book builds upon the success of the first book to explore one stone. That stone is so much to different creatures. It can be a home, a kitchen, a hill. It can be smooth or rough, loud or quiet. It can be smelled or felt. It can be dark or light. It can be an island, or disappear under the water. Yet it is still there, a world in itself.
This book is so impressive. It is a quiet picture book, exploring one specific stone and the many ways it can be experienced. The book has a refrain which lifts it beyond a list of different ways to view the stone:
and it sat where it sat
with the water, grass, and dirt
and it was as it was
where it was in the world.
This is a book willing to be slow and thoughtful. It takes its own time and asks the reader or listener to do the same. It is grounded in the most wonderful of ways.
The illustrations are simply amazing. They move forward with a feeling of time passing. Some are hazy while others are crisp. Some are done in scribbles of crayon while other have layers of collage. The variety of the media used adds so much dimension to the book, the stone seen in different ways in an organic way.
Brilliant. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys by Mike Unwin, illustrated by Jenni Desmond (9781547600977)
Explore the many animals who migrate each year from all over the world in this nonfiction picture book. The book focuses on each animal’s amazing journey and provides a wide look at migration in general, the various types of animals who migrate, and the specific story of each animal. The animals include birds like the emperor penguin, the Arctic tern, the swallow, and the ruby-throated hummingbird. It also tells the story of mammals like the whales, elephants and caribou. Then there are surprising stories of migrations of crabs, dragonflies, and bats.
The text of the book offers real details of the animal’s lives and their migrations. The book ends with a map of all of the different migration paths shared in the book, nicely covering much of the globe with their travels. The information provided is fascinating and just enough to discover whether you want to learn more about that animal or not.
The illustrations are done in full-page color where the animals take center stage against their various habitats. From the Christmas crabs filling the street with their red color to the beauty of a mother whale and her calf to the woods filled with monarch wings, each of them are unique and just as interesting to explore as the text.
A fascinating and scientific look at migration and the creatures who do it year after year. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.
Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown (9781338349610)
Released July 30, 2019.
Brown returns with another look at wildlife that never get featured in children’s book about animals. Each of these animals is fascinating and Brown offers really interesting facts and tidbits about each of them. The book includes a kangaroo that lives in trees and can jump down over 60 feet without getting hurt. It also has beaked whales with peculiar teeth that hunt fish and squid. There are giant colorful squirrels from India, a killer marten from Afghanistan who can hunt deer, and a Chinese deer with fangs who can leap into trees. Page after page has an unusual animal that demonstrate that we are still learning about wildlife on Earth and that there are more animals than tigers, lions and giraffes to discover.
As with his first book, it is Martin’s writing that makes this such a pleasure to read. I find it impossible to read this book without sharing the information and humor with those around me. The facts shared are interesting and told with plenty of attitude and aside comments that make it great fun to keep learning. Each animal has data points too, such as size, what they eat, where they live, and status. Size in particular is done very nicely, using comparisons like dogs, cats and humans. Brown’s art gives each of the animals rather googly eyes and they often seem to be looking directly at the reader. They are shown in their habitat and often in motion. Other details are called out in images as well and are embedded in the text.
Smart, funny and sure to teach you something new. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from ARC provided by David Fickling Books.
Hummingbird by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray (9781536205381)
In a grandmother’s garden in Central America, a granddaughter watches the zooming hummingbirds. The birds will soon be heading north for the summer to their nesting grounds. The tiny birds must cross the Gulf of Mexico, stopping for a bit of rest on boats along the way. They continue on, following the blooming flowers as they stretch northward. When they reach their nesting grounds, the male hummingbirds defend their nearby flowers. There, the same girl, now in New York City, finds an eggshell on the ground and realizes that she has seen both the beginning and end of the hummingbird’s migration.
Davies, a zoologist, beautifully frames the story of the hummingbird with one little girl’s own travels from Central America to her home in New York City. She makes sure that readers have plenty of facts about the hummingbird, from how light they are to what their diets need to how they nest and migrate. Davies has a real skill for sharing just enough facts with young readers and still telling a compelling story that is not derailed by too many factoids.
The illustrations by Ray are phenomenal. Her delicate lines are exactly the right format for these tiny birds. She captures the beauty of their feathers and their coloring. She also shows them in mid-air but still manages to convey their speed and dexterity.
A beautiful nonfiction picture book about an amazing tiny bird. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Daniel Egneus (9781547600205)
This nonfiction picture book explains a specific process of evolution by following the story of the Peppered Moth. The moths emerge from their cocoons after the long winter, quickly seeking shelter from predators. At first, most of the moths had speckled black and white wings. It allowed them to better hide in the bark of the woods. The ones that happened to be born with dark wings got eaten by predators. So the speckled moths were able to survive to lay their eggs. But then the world around them changed with more soot and pollution covering the bark of the trees and other objects. Now it was the dark moths that survived best and could lay their eggs. Steadily, the moths started to become darker and less speckled. Now though, pollution is lessening and there is no longer as much soot. So the speckled moths are returning alongside the dark moths.
The tale of the Peppered Moth shows many elements of evolutionary process, including natural selection and adaptation. Both of those concepts are more fully described in the final pages of the book but are fully realized in the main part of the book as well. Thomas does a lovely job with the prose, giving the reader just enough information to allow the story to unfold before them. She limits the amount of words on the page, making this accessible for quite young children.
The illustrations are marvelous, inviting readers into the darkness of a moonlit woods as the moths emerge from their cocoons. The pages fill with moths of different mixtures of black and white. When day comes, more predators enter the pages. As the pollution enters, the world becomes dark and filled with dots and specks of dirty soot. The moths glow against the new darkness, or hide well, depending on their color. It’s a stirring and rich look at evolution happening right before your eyes.
Beautifully written and illustrated, this is a very special nonfiction picture book. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.
You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk (9781534432826)
Journey to America’s national parks in this masterful picture book. The book begins by showing the wildlife of the parks as well as the plants that grow there. Pronghorns and a bobcat fill the pages. Then humans appear, experiencing the same nature and realizing that they are home as well. Whether you live in the city or the country, in a national park you can feel you belong. From one park to another, iconic images of their scenery is shared throughout and described. This is an immersive experience of a picture book.
Turk creates an cohesive world in this book, taking readers with him traveling to the national parks. His poetic text lingers on each page, conjuring special moments where animals pause and look up, where waterfalls pour, and where there is silence among the trees. His illustrations, done in pastel on black paper, shine and draw readers into the scenes. One can almost hear the water rush, smell the pines, and feel the breezes.
A great picture book about our national treasures. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds and Me by Susan L. Roth (9780823442829)
Collage artist Roth takes a look at the amazing bowerbird and how her work and their building process compare with one another. Both she and the bowerbird are collectors of random items. They use those items to create compositions. For the bowerbird, that is a bower for their courtship process. They both like unusual objects that they use to create art, things that no one else might ever combine in that way. They both pay attention to color and both seek out praise for their work in the end.
I was really pleasantly surprised by the content and construct of this picture book. While I knew it would be about bowerbirds and humans, I didn’t expect it to be so directly related to the artistic side of both. Roth beautifully shows the fascinating correlations between her work and that of the bird. She demonstrates both in her collage illustrations and in the text of the book how similar they actually are. The text though is kept wonderfully simple, making this book about art very accessible even for young children. She completes the book with more facts about the birds and about her own work as well as a bibliography of sources.
Roth’s illustrations are fabulous. Bright and filled with objects of all kinds, they fill the page with vibrancy. Most of the pages show the bird and then Roth, each working in a similar way on their art. The result is a book about Roth’s way of making art that is also an example of the art itself. Clever stuff!
A very successful mix of nature, science and art. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Predator and Prey by Susannah Buhrman-Deever, illustrated by Bert Kitchen (9780763695330)
In poems for two voices, this book shows the cunning, evolution and beauty of predators and their prey. From bats to frogs to snakes to hawks to spiders, the poems feature all sorts of animals. Engagingly, often it is sometimes the obvious predator who is actually going to be the prey. That is certainly true in the example of the spider at the center of her web who is being preyed upon by the assassin bug. After each of the poems, there is a section about the animals in nonfiction prose that illuminates the relationship of the two species more clearly.
I was amazed to discover that this is biologist Buhrman-Deever’s first book for children. Her two-voice poems are very effective and could easily be used in classroom activities to be shared aloud by pairs of children who will enjoy being predators and prey since so many of the animals featured are very fascinating. She gives voice to the animals in her poems and then allows scientific information to be shared as well. The end of the book has a lengthy bibliography which is greatly appreciated.
The illustrations by Kitchen are exceptional as well, showing the reader the relationship between the two animals being discussed. They are realistic and dramatic as the animals stand off on the page. Several of the pages also have large gated pages that open to reveal the poem beneath them, allowing Kitchen’s full imagery to be appreciated without words blocking it.
A very successful mix of poetry and science, this one is sure to be preyed upon by hungry readers in classrooms and activities. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
You Are Never Alone by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim (9781771473156)
The creators of You Are Stardust return with another book that demonstrates how interconnected we are. This time the focus is on the nature around all of us and how we are never alone in our environment. We can look into the eyes of a dog and feel love, we play in the mud and feel deep happiness thanks to microorganisms, we breathe oxygen that plants create. Nature is there in everything we do, everything we eat, and our connections can be as huge as a whale to as small as the organisms on our skin. We are never alone, because we are supported by this web of life that we too are a part of.
Kelsey’s words are poetic and moving. She points out immense connections to nature like the water cycle and oxygen cycle, then she moves to painting the personal connections to pets and also includes the smallest creatures we know of. It’s a beautiful way to view nature, as supportive and complex, something we must not only trust in but value enough to protect too.
The illustrations by Kim are spectacular. Done in multilayered paper collage, they seem lit from within and shine on the page. Kim plays with perspective and size in most of the illustrations, including fine line drawings, dancing paper leaves and branches, and children everywhere.
A gentle and inclusive look at nature and our world by two gifted children’s book creators. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.