Tag: nature

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

du-iz-tak-by-carson-ellis

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis (InfoSoup)

This inventive picture book takes a close-up look at a garden filled with insects. There is the caterpillar who enters his chrysalis, beetles and a ladybug who notice a sprout growing. They go to Icky, who lives in a log nearby and who has a ladder they can use. The sprout continues to grow and grow. At night other insects and bugs come out. Soon a fort is built in the growing plant but then, disaster! A spider comes and webs the entire plant. As nature continues to take its course, more insects arrive to see the plant flower. Slowly the plant tips over and the fort falls. Seeds drift to the ground. Fall arrives and the butterfly emerges from her cocoon. In spring, new sprouts appear.

The summary above does not capture what is truly amazing about this book. It is the language play, the word choices and the way that at first it seems like a foreign language but by the end of the book you are “speaking” and understanding bug. The language has phrases that are recognizable, allows for decoding of the language and then repeats in a way that allows readers to better understand. It’s very cleverly done and a book unlike any other I’ve experienced.

Ellis’ illustrations add to the otherworldly appeal of this book. Many of the insects are recognizable and still they are strange and wild. The illustrations beautifully focus on the same log and plant throughout, with seasons changing, the plant growing, and the insects coming and going. It is rather like an organic theatrical set and stage.

I have a deep affection for this zany picture book. Children who enjoy word play will love this and may find themselves speaking the bug language for awhile. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.

 

Pond by Jim LaMarche

pond-by-jim-lamarche

Pond by Jim LaMarche (InfoSoup)

Out walking in the late winter, Matt realized the the place that they had always called “the Pit” used to be a pond. So he and his friends decided to recreate the pond that had been there. They cleaned up the junk and built a new dam. As they worked, Pablo discovered a blue stone shaped like a heart in the sand. Katie started to research the birds, insects and stones as the pond started to slowly fill. They found an old wooden boat and repaired it, naming it Dragonfly. Summer ended with them floating on the newly filled pond, camping nearby. In fall, the geese discovered the pond and flocked to it. Winter brought ice skating on the pond with lots of friends. In the spring, the three friends run to the top of a hill overlooking the pond and there they see how the heart stone is connected to the pond itself.

LaMarche offers a perspective on nature that shows children that they too can do things to restore natural areas. The amount of work that the children do is not minimized at all nor is the slow return to a pond from a pit. This focus on effort, hard work and a slow pay off is vital when working with nature. The book embraces a sort of natural time, a patience while birds and bugs return. Then it picks up, swooping with changes and demonstrating how an ecosystem changes throughout the seasons and serves different animals.

LaMarche grew up in Wisconsin and you can see Wisconsin on each page of this book. From the bombardment of mosquitoes in the summer to the spotted fawns to the woods and marshes. The illustrations are superb, showing the shimmering light of water and woods, the moon rising over a pond, and again that slow transformation into natural beauty.

A testament to the power of restoration for natural areas and how children can help, this picture book is a pleasure. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

 

 

Follow Me by Ellie Sandall

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Follow Me by Ellie Sandall (InfoSoup)

A lemur leads his extended family on a journey in this picture book. First he wakes them up and they climb down from the tree encouraged by his “Follow me, follow me, follow me!” They have a lot to do with things to chase after, discover and scare. They climb scrawny trees, munch on cactus for lunch. But when they are crossing the river, they get quite a surprise that has them moving a lot faster! They return to the safety of their tree after that, the book becoming almost sleepy in the end.

Sandall has written a rhyming book that works really nicely thanks to its simplicity. The “follow me” refrain creates a strong structure for the book. She uses the refrain in a variety of ways, from encouragement to warning to eventual dozing sleep. This change in tone is key to the book working so well since it adds dimension and changes in pace as the book moves along.

The illustrations are large and bright, perfect for using with a group of children. Backgrounds are kept simple and geometric with branches, leaves, and plants. The lemurs themselves shine on the page with their ringed tails and round orange eyes.

A simple and fun picture book with plenty of zing. This is one to follow! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry.

 

Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari

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Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (InfoSoup)

Coyote wakes and heads out of her den to find food for her pups. She walks the roads past houses and fences. She finds a mouse but doesn’t manage to catch it. There are geese on the golf course, but Coyote can’t get close enough to steal an egg without the geese attacking her. There is a rabbit on a lawn, but the rabbit is faster than Coyote. Soon dawn arrives and Coyote still has not caught any food for her family. Then there are turkeys walking nearby and Coyote manages to capture one. She heads home but not before a child spies her from a window when Coyote stops to sing to the morning.

This book is a beautiful dance between illustrations and text. Gianferrari’s prose is extremely poetic, using phrasing that almost turns it into verse particularly when read aloud. The pacing of the book is dynamic and picks up with a sense of near desperation as one prey animal after another escapes. Sympathy for the coyotes, which may not have been high in the beginning of the book, is skillfully built throughout the story until readers will be near cheering when the turkey is caught. The book finishes with information on coyotes.

Ibatoulline’s illustrations are incredibly detailed. Dark and light play on the page, from the electric outdoor lights from human buildings to the moonlight shining on fur. The darkness has dimension, subtle colors, and textures. There is a sense of near hyper-realism as well as readers get closer to these animals in the illustrations than they ever could in life.

This picture book blends nonfiction with great writing to create a realistic view of urban coyotes. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak

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Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak (InfoSoup)

A child wearing a flowing red scarf heads out into the woods on a late summer morning. Branches sway in the cool wind. Animals are out and busy looking for food while others are heading south for the winter. Cozy nests and dens are being crafted too. The flowers are catching the last rays of warm summer sun. There are rumbles of thunder and clouds rolling in. Breezes and drizzle and chill enter the air. Leaves are starting to fall too. The child heads out the next day, into autumn.

Pak’s writing is poetic and simple. He allows nature to have a voice in this picture book. The trees talk about the wind, the animals speak to what they are doing to prepare for cold weather, etc. It’s a lovely way to capture the changes through the living things that are experiencing it first hand. The child too is experiencing the changes in temperature, the clouds, the rain and the winds. There is a sense of being immersed in nature and experiencing changing seasons directly as they change from one to another.

Pak’s illustrations truly make this book spectacular. From the flow of the child’s scarf on the page, marking the wind as it blows to the woods itself filled with strong trunks and tall grasses. The tops of the trees shine with the light of late summer and start to change to early autumn as the book progresses, still filled with the same light and air.

This book is a testament to the beauty of changing seasons, the natural aspects of those changes and the vitality of being outside and being part of it. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Chirri and Chirra by Kaya Doi

Chirri and Chirra by Kaya Doi

Chirri and Chirra by Kaya Doi

Released September 6, 2016.

Chirri and Chirra are two little girls who wake up early and head out into the forest together on their bicycles. They arrive at the forest cafe where there are tables just right for creatures and people of any size. They order cups of acorn coffee and clover blossom tea. Then they are off again into the forest and they find a bakery with bread and jam of all kinds. A bear and rabbit are eating there too. The girls choose their sandwiches and eat them near a pond. They play in the water, nap under a tree. They bicycle farther on and as the sun is setting come to a forest hotel where they find a room and beds just the right size for them. The day ends with the girls joining in a forest concert as everyone sings together.

This is a translation from the Japanese original, and it works very well. The picture book is delightful and airy, inviting children into a world built just for them. The description may seem a bit too sweet and almost saccharine, but the book is not like that. Instead it has an exceptional childlike nature that fills it with wonder and the joy of exploration. There is a feeling that this is entirely imaginary yet that it may also be delightfully real.

Doi’s illustrations are a large part of the appeal of this book. The two girls are matching except for the buttons on their dresses. The illustrations celebrate the different sizes of creatures and also the food and drink that the girls have along the way. Just the acorn coffee and clover tea will have your mouth watering. Expect plenty of tea parties and sandwiches after reading this.

The first in a series, I am hopeful we will see more of them in translation soon. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

 

You Belong Here by M.H. Clark

You Belong Here by MH Clark

You Belong Here by M.H. Clark (InfoSoup)

This poetic picture book celebrates both nature and the child themselves. The book opens with the text talking right to the child, telling them that just as the moon and stars belong so do they belong right with the person reading the book. It then moves on to talk about different animals and how they belong too either deep in the sea, in the woods, or in a nest. Then the book returns to the child and it continues to move back and forth between nature and child, demonstrating how much that child simply belongs to the world as well.

Told in rhyme, this picture book’s poetry is very well done with none of the rhymes feeling forced. In fact, the text almost dances particularly as it moves between child and nature, each of those transitions feeling a little like a graceful twirl to bring to back around in a circle. There is attention throughout too to ecosystems and showing how each animal or plant has a place that is important and vital to that place. It’s a book that creates both warmth and the opportunity for conversation as well.

The illustrations by Arsenault are subtly colored and almost ethereal. They show the intertwining nature of the world with buildings and homes interspersed with natural scenes of animals and plants. The creatures on the page are almost lit from within, white against the watercolor backgrounds.

A beautiful celebration of home and the world that all sorts of families will find welcoming and heart warming. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.