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.
Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (9781452159324)
Maurice has a bright yellow bicycle attached to his lemonade stand. He never lacks for customers even as he drives through town, into the park with best lemon trees, and then onward. Everyone wants to buy his lemonade. Lotta rides her red bicycle to gather sticks every day. She gave them away for free. The two of them never met, but one day Maurice’s bike crashed because of a stick and Lotta’s bike smashed because of some lemon peels. The two of them tried to move on past their ruined bicycles, but it wasn’t the same. Then one day, they both headed to the bike shop where they found a two-seated bike made from their two ruined ones. But can they share?
Higgins has written several books for children. This one is a dynamic story of two very similar and yet very different characters who both love riding bicycles for very different reasons. Still, one hopes through the story that they become friends. Their sadness at their lost bicycles mirrors one another and there is a chance for a lot of blame to ruin any chances they might have to be friends. But the love of bicycles shines through as the two of them come together to delight people in the parks once more.
OHora’s illustrations make this book a stand out. He uses an incredibly rich and saturated color palette filled with deep reds, gorgeous greens, lemon yellow and bright blues. The bicycles in the illustrations are wonderfully out sized for the characters, making them all the more important in the images.
A book built for two, or more. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.
Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer (InfoSoup)
When Daniel discovers that there will be Poetry in the Park on Sunday, he begins to wonder what poetry is. The friends he has made in nature help him start to understand it. Spider says that poetry is “morning dew when it glistens.” For Squirrel, it is “when crisp leaves crunch.” Frog sees it as “a cool pool to dive into.” Owl has many ideas about stars, moonlight and her own silent wings. As Daniel listens to all of the creatures, he realizes that he has created a poem, one that lets him see poetry everywhere just as they do.
Archer’s look at poetry is delightful. She shows poetry connected to each creature’s life, each animal having its own unique way of viewing the world and then turning it into something poetic and special. Young readers will understand poetry just as Daniel does, piece by piece, symbol by symbol in an organic and natural way. While Daniel’s poetry at the end is lovely, I really enjoyed that the book had one final moment where Daniel finds his own personal piece of poetry.
Archer’s illustrations are exceptional. Using a layered technique that involves paint, hand-made block prints, and collage, the illustrations are rich and detailed. They have deep colors that sing on the page and a complexity in texture that is particularly pleasing.
A lush and striking book about poetry and its power in everyone’s life. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC received from Nancy Paulsen Books.
Junkyard by Mike Austin
Two huge robots are in a junkyard where there is garbage that goes on for miles. Then the robots start munching, eating cards, buses, planes and more. They devour trains, chains, tires, and bicycles. They drink paste, goo and toxic waste. Then the story changes and the robots clean up the few things that are left behind, just one little stack. And it’s time for something new. The robots dig holes in the ground and plant trees and flowers. They build a playground and dig out a lake. They have gardens and dirt piles. And now what once was a junkyard is a place just for you!
Done in a romping rhyme, this picture book has the appeal of huge robots and destruction. I must admit that I was completely disarmed by the change of tone in the book when the robots changed from destruction to creation. It was a striking choice to make in the book and one that will increase its appeal.
Austin’s art is vibrant and colorful. He uses deep colors that are rich and pop against the white background. The robots are friendly even as they devour planes and buses. With the rhyme, the entire book has a playful feel that makes it work well.
A celebration of robots, destruction and making something of nothing, this is a bright and fun joy of a book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Water in the Park: A Book about Water and the Times of the Day by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
This picture book opens with the sun rising just before six in the morning on the park. The turtles warm their shells in the pond and the glow of the sun lights the water. Dogs and their owners arrive for their morning walks. When they arrive, the turtles slip back under the water. By seven, babies have arrived at the park and are getting their drinks from the drinking fountain and setting up for a day of play. At eight, the sprinkles in the water play area are turned on. The day progresses with puddles, plants being watered, an ice cream truck, people cooling off in the shade, and lots of splashing. In the evening, the rain comes and everyone clears out of the park, leaving it again to the turtles and the silence.
Purely satisfying, this book shows the cyclical nature of the day as well as the water cycle too. All of the many ways that people use water in a park are shown here with a glorious sense of watching people’s lives from a bit away. We get to know the personalities of children and dogs, the joy of the sprinklers, the heat of the day, and the merriment of a full day spent at the park. It is also a celebration of the neighborhood park, where people from all over come together in a love of green space and water.
Graegin’s illustrations are filled with small touches that make them a pleasure to explore. This book is not ideal for sharing with larger groups because so much of its charm is in the details. It is those details that let us get to know the different people and animals without any explanation. Small dramas play out in these pictures.
A wonderful book, this story will speak to children from both country and urban settings who know the joys of parks, ponds and community. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss.
The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir had little in common growing up except for one thing: they both loved the outdoors and the wilderness. So in 1903, when President Roosevelt read a book by John Muir that pleaded for people to save the trees, he couldn’t stop thinking about losing all of the trees in the mountain forests. Roosevelt set out to meet with Muir in Yosemite. After a few pictures, the two men rode off together with no entourage or photographers along. Roosevelt got to see the giant sequoias, listen to Muir’s stories, see valleys carved by glaciers, and awaken under inches of snow. Together the two men dreamed a new dream for the United States and its wild areas, one where they were protected for generations to come.
Rosenstock tells this story with a wonderful joy that permeates the entire work. She captures the differences between the two men clearly but binds them together through their love of the outdoors. The natural parts of the story are also captured in imagery and distinct moments where the men connect with each other and with the wilderness itself.
Gerstein’s illustrations have a depth to them that nicely captures both the men and the natural beauty. The quiet of Roosevelt’s life is shown in deep colors and stillness. It contrasts powerfully with the blues, golds and greens of the natural world that is light filled and also full of action.
This is a celebration of two men and the difference they made in our lives by creating the National Parks. It is also an invitation to head out and explore the parks for yourself, looking for your own moments of connection to the wilderness. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.