Tag: nature

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

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Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King (InfoSoup)

Everything has changed for Obe over the last few years. His family’s farmland has turned into a housing development. His best friend is now friends with the kids living in the new development. He has constant nose bleeds caused by something he doesn’t like to talk about, but it has a lot to do with his ex-friend and the new development. Obe spends a lot of time at the creek on his family’s remaining property, cleaning up the trash left by others. Then he meets an unusual animal. It is an odd mix of pig and dog and it eats plastic. Obe names the animal “Marvin Gardens” and knows that he has to keep it a secret from everyone. But when his ex-friend discovers the animal too, Obe has to decide who to trust and who can help Marvin Gardens survive.

A.S. King is best known as a writer for teens. She has made a lovely transition to middle-grade writing here in a novel of environmentalism and self-acceptance. King wrestles with the problems of middle-grade friendships, the loss of green space, and the question of how one kid can make an impact on climate change or even on his local environment. Throughout, her writing is a call for action, for personal responsibility and for staying true to what is important to you as a person.

Obe is a fascinating protagonist. At first, he seems young and naive, but as the book progresses, one realizes that he is simply interested in the environment, understands deeply changing friendships, stands up for others, and speaks out for the rights of animals and nature. King manages this without giving Obe a major shift or change, rather it is the reader who grows and changes and understands the character in a different way. It’s all thanks to King’s skill as an author, her way of showing adults as fools at times, and her willingness to allow Obe to simply be himself.

A strong book about the environment and a rousing call to be responsible for your own patch of earth, this will be a joy to share aloud in a classroom or with children who love nature and don’t mind a bit of muck on their shoes. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

 

Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre

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Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre (InfoSoup)

A companion book to Raindrops Roll, this book celebrates the wonder of snow. Combining lovely photography with a poem on the changing nature of snow, this picture book invites readers to see beyond the chill of winter and into the beauty of it. The book moves from freezing weather and gathering clouds to a full snowstorm where snowflakes land on a squirrel’s nose. The snow covers things and the wind blows. Then the sun returns, water starts to seep and icicles drip. But wait, there’s more snow on the way and another squirrel’s nose too.

Sayre has a beautiful tone here, one of wonder and deep understanding. She writes more detailed information about snow and water in a note at the end that also includes a bibliography of more resources. The progression of the book is lovely, moving from one storm into a brief respite of sun to another storm, something that those of us in a cold climate will recognize. The poetry is a mix of playfulness and natural facts that is very appealing.

Sayre’s photography is truly beautiful. She captures the motion of snow, the various way that the light hits it, the different forms it takes. She has images of animals and birds, allowing the reader to see snow from a natural point of view rather than a human one.

This is a wintry journey worth taking, perfect with a mug of cocoa. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

 

 

Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray

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Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray (InfoSoup)

Released January 17, 2017.

Molly longs not to have a mother who heads into the woods to collect weeds and herbs. She wants a normal family that has a normal house, not one that feels like a caravan inside. She wants a mother who gives her granola bars in packages, not one who creates potions and treatments. Her neighbors want them to calm down too, get control of their rooster who crows at dawn and to neaten up their yard. Molly’s mother creates a powerful potion to grow a tree in one night that will shield them from the neighbors, but accidentally drinks it herself. Suddenly, Molly’s mother has turned into a tree. Now Molly has to decide who to trust with the secrets of her life. It can’t be Ellen, her best friend, who is very normal and whose life Molly covets. Instead she turns to the odd boy in their class, Pim, who creates a plan along with Molly to bring her mother back. But will it work before her neighbors start to cut off the branches of the wild new tree?

This Australian import is a magical read and not only for the real magic that happens on the pages. It has a gorgeous tone about it, one that is organic and delicious at the same time. One feels invited directly into the wonder of potions and weeds, your hands itching to get out there and brew your own green syrup. The voice throughout is fresh and filled with surprise.

Molly grows throughout the book, realizing that her own unique upbringing is nothing to be ashamed of. I love that it is Ellen, the normal one, who teaches her this. She speaks directly to Molly about how it feels to be excluded and how important it is to trust. The writing in the book is very special, creating moments like these that are less about lectures and more about sudden inspiration and realizations.

A gorgeously written novel that offers potions, magic and wonder. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

 

How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder

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How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder (InfoSoup)

A little girl sets out to find a fox. She immediately finds a fox hole, but the fox isn’t home. She sets out fox bait, then hides and waits so long that she gets sleepy. She tries following fox tracks, but fox are sneaky animals. She puts out more bait and eventually falls fast asleep. She tries making fox calls. Finally, when she climbs a tree to look around, she spots the fox! But she loses him. The little girl is ready to give up, but convinces herself to keep on trying. Perhaps the solution is making the fox want to find her!

Magruder has created a wonderfully appealing picture book with an African-American protagonist. Both the little girl and the fox are dynamic characters who capture your attention. While the little girl searches for the fox, young readers will love spotting him themselves as the little girl just happens to be looking in the wrong direction. These missed encounters add to the excitement of the book. The entire book reads very well and is perfect to share aloud. It shares the value of resilience and persistence.

The art has a lot of charm and is reminiscent of Dora the Explorer which will make this a book that children pick up. There are illustrations that are wonderful, such as the little girl about to give up, lying flat on her back on the grass, spent. The art will project well for a group.

A great addition to storytime units on foxes or being outside. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

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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

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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.