Tag: nature

Round by Joyce Sidman

Round by Joyce Sidman

Round by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (9780544387614, Amazon)

This simple picture book looks at things in life that are round. A little girl explores her world, seeing all of the things that are round. It is much more than a list of round items, speaking to the joy of round things, the feel of them in the hand, and the way that they appear again and again particularly in nature. There is the roundness of seeds, the round center of flowers, the round circles inside of trees, and the rounded stones in the ocean. Throughout the book, the little girl experiences each of these and finds that she too can become round sometimes with friends and sometimes all on her own.

Sidman captures the joy of experiencing nature and discovering shapes there. This book is specifically about circles and rounded shapes, making it very appropriate for toddlers who are just learning about shapes. The text is simple and friendly, inviting youngsters to find round things in their own world. Text at the end of the book speaks to why we see so many round things in nature.

The illustrations by Yoo add to the feeling of being invited along on a journey of discovery outdoors. Yoo’s illustrations show the little girl, her dog and her father exploring together. Yoo lets readers see up close when appropriate and then back away to show large expanses when that works best.

A simple look at circles in nature, this picture book is a great invitation to head outside and find your own shapes. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler (9780802854889, Amazon)

In between day and night, there is a special time of day: twilight or the blue hour. This picture book looks as blue animals during this brief time of day, capturing their blue beauty against the blue of the setting. There are animals like the blue fox from the arctic. Poison blue dart frogs are tropical. The plants and animals come from around the world, some from our own backyards like violets and bluebirds. Throughout the book, there is a feel of the magical time of day and quiet it brings as night settles in.

Simler’s words are poetic. Her collection of plants and animals move from being more active to a quieter feel as the book progresses. This arc follows the way that nature quiets before nightfall. The end pages of the book offer information on different types of blue and then a map with the various animals on it.

The art is very special with the blue tones dominant throughout. There is a peacefulness and simplicity to it that matches the time of day perfectly. The various animals and plants are shown almost luminous on the blue background, their fur, feathers, and petals lit from within. This adds to the magical feel of the book and the sense that readers are looking at something almost secret.

A blue-tiful book about nature, time and the wonder around us. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans.

All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson

All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson

All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson (9781481415712, Amazon)

This picture book starts from the turn of the first page before the title page even appears. Questions are asked that let us follow the falling leaves into the book itself. The book layers words and questions, asking readers to look at the illustrations for the answers and creating rhymes that carry the reader deeper into the woods. The story follows a fox and a cat, as they make their way through the forest with an owl’s call haunting the air. Other sounds appear as well, inviting readers to guess what they are hearing and seeing. This is a sensory feast for children and an invitation to explore the night.

Jackson plays with language throughout the book. His poetry is layered and complex. It is created to be read aloud where the buried rhymes suddenly come through and the rhythms beat more strongly. Just as the book is about following sensory clues, the poetry is like that as well. You simply must give yourself up to the experience of reading it aloud rather than trying to control it at all. Throughout it is surprising, quiet and wild.

Tillotson’s illustrations are as rich and complex as the poetry. She crafts a wildness using perspectives and small details. Other pages are filled with darkness and near silence, then there is more to see and hear. Children will love looking for animals that they can just glimpse on the page: the porcupine disappearing into the darkness, the treefrog nearly invisible on a log.

A brilliant book to share aloud, this picture book is wild and free. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (9781452145426, Amazon)

This is the third book by Messner and Neal that looks at different habitats and their above and below ground, or in this case water, life. In this book, readers get a look at what a pond is like while floating in a canoe on top of the water and then get to see below the water and glimpse the amazing things happening down there. The book focuses on the ecosystem itself and how the life above water works with that below. Moose graze on the side of the pond while beavers dive below the water. A heron strides along the shore and then strikes, eating the minnows below the water. This is a dynamic look at life on a pond that will make all readers dream of summer days out of doors.

Messner’s prose is evocative, inviting readers fully into this habitat both as the humans witnessing the beauty and as the animals who live there. The human perspective of the mirror of the water and turtles being startled is an important piece of this book. Even more vital are the underwater scenes and the scenes that bridge the two using animals and plants. That’s where it gets filled with wonder and Messner is happy to join us in that amazement and joy.

Neal’s illustrations are detailed and lush. I appreciate that the human characters in the canoe are people of color, a small detail that makes that book all the more diverse and welcoming. The natural elements are shown from a variety of perspectives. One of my favorites is looking up from the bottom of the pond to the boat above, seeing fish and turtles above the reader. Bliss!

A strong third book in this series, make sure to get all three for your library. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

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

best-in-snow-by-april-pulley-sayre

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

molly-pim-and-the-millions-of-stars-by-martine-murray

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.