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.
River by Elisha Cooper (9781338312263)
Explore the Hudson River alongside an intrepid canoer in this picture book. The book takes readers from a mountain lake on a journey of 300 miles to where the Hudson meets the Atlantic. The woman meets moose, otters, a bear cub, ducks and more on her journey. She faces rapids and sometimes has to drag her canoe in shallow waters or portage it across a dam. She uses a lock to get past a waterfall. She stops at times to restock her supplies at towns along the river. She paddles for days and days, sleeping in a tent at night. She faces a storm and has her boat overturned, but she eventually reaches New York City and her home.
There is something so invigorating and inspiring about this glimpse of someone making a journey of a lifetime. At the same time, this is a quiet book, one that inspires thinking, drawing and taking time for one’s self. It’s a lovely balance of a book, and thanks to Cooper’s unique style it is told in a way that honors the woman’s courage and skill and yet makes it all less daunting to imagine doing. It’s just what we want picture books to do for children.
Cooper’s art really shines here, reading more like a journal at times with scenes just barely captured before they changed. Other pages which feature the landscape and vistas along the way are spectacularly done whether in broad daylight or filled with stars at night.
A journey worth taking again and again. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.
Puma Dreams by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim Lamarche (9781534429796)
The narrator of this book, a young girl, longs to see a puma before they disappear entirely. There have been reports about sightings near her gram’s home. Puma kittens were found in a barn, pumas have stalked horses, and been seen dozing on a tree limb. But the girl has never seen one herself. So she spends her allowance on a fifty-pound salt lick that she put out in the field. Other animals visit the salt lick, including deer, cattle, elk, but no puma appears. The salt lick dwindles down. There are signs of a puma in the area, large paw marks left in wet dirt. Then one day at breakfast, the girl feels a prickle and looks behind her and there at the salt lick is a puma in the golden morning light.
Johnston writes in poetry in this picture book. She paints entire pictures with her words, sharing the delicate balance in nature where a species is on the decline. She shares the young narrator’s wistfulness and wonder at the puma, dreaming along with her about its life and what it is doing right then. The amazement and delight when the puma finally appears is so satisfying after the longing she has conveyed on all of the previous pages.
Lamarche’s illustrations are exceptional. They capture the landscape of grassland and mountains, illuminated by the time of day with the colors of dawn or the golden light of evening. The setting is depicted so clearly that one could almost walk to the salt lick from the house. He also shows the little girl and her gram in the images, living in connection with the land around them. The beauty of the hidden puma is also there, sometimes featured on the page and other times elusive but there.
A gorgeous picture book about dreams, plans and patience. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: A True Story of a World-Traveling Bug Hunter by Christine Evans, illustrated by Yasmin Imamura (9781943147663)
Born in 1881, Evelyn Cheesman did not conform to the expectations set for little girls. She loved to go on bug hunts and play outside. As she grew up, she hoped to become a veterinarian but women at the time did not attend college much less become vets. So Evelyn became a canine nurse. Evelyn heard about an opportunity at the London Zoo to run their insect house. She leaped at the opportunity, though no woman had ever done it before. She took their dilapidated and neglected insect house and created an engaging display. She then started traveling the world to gather new species and discovering unknown species along the way. She continued to work into her seventies, still traveling the world and climbing to find the insects she loved.
Evans has written this picture book biography with a frank tone that speaks directly to the societal barriers in place against women at the turn of the century entering the sciences. It is remarkable to watch Evelyn make her own way through those barriers, creating a space for herself to learn and explore. There is a joyous celebratory nature to the book as Evelyn reaches new levels in her careers and crosses boundaries both geographical and societal.
The illustrations are done in watercolor, featuring layered elements that really create the woods and other habitats beautifully on the page. The book then moves into the sterility of Evelyn’s time as a canine nurse with the colors becoming more muted. The vivid colors of the beginning of the book return as Evelyn heads into the field and re-enters nature.
A strong STEM biography for bug lovers. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Innovation Press.
Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins (9781541561922)
This nonfiction picture book explores hibernation and other forms of dormancy in cold weather. The book looks not only at animals, but at trees as they enter their own dormant winter period. Ladybugs gather together for warmth and pause until spring. Ground squirrels hibernate, shivering for hours to keep warm. Chickadees slow their hearts and pause on cold nights until the next day. Alligators sink into the mud. Earthworms go dormant during a drought until water returns. Then when water or warmth comes back, everyone returns to full life once again.
The breadth of subject matter here is impressive and makes the book far more fascinating than just being about hibernation. The writing is poetic with recurring phrases that call for the dormant species to pause… and the reader will naturally do the same. Each creature is approached in a similar way, making for a book that reads well aloud and also creating a cohesiveness that this broad a subject requires. The book ends with definitions of different types of dormancy and a bibliography for further exploration of the subject. The photographs in the book come from collections such as Getty Images and stock photos. They work well here, offering glimpses of the species dormant as well as active.
An interesting science book that will share well with a group. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press.
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.