I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith (9780823445592)

Based on the author’s own childhood, this picture book explores the life of a boy with a stutter. The boy wakes every day surrounded by words, many of which he can’t say aloud. They tangle his tongue and stick in his throat. So every morning, he stays silent. He’s quiet at school too, hiding in the back of the class and hoping not to be asked to talk. After a particularly hard day, his father picks him up from school and takes him to the river. After seeing how upset his son is by his “bad speech day,” his father points to the river and says that how the water moves is how his son speaks. The river runs over rocks, bubbling and churning, but it also goes quiet and still after the rocks.

Scott is a poet and his skill with words is on full display here. He uses gorgeous metaphors throughout, including the connection to the river. The words around the boy in the morning connect with his inability to speak at times, the pine trees sticking out from his lips, the crow cawing from his throat, the moonlight shining from his mouth. Each of these gives readers a new way to experience a stutter, each beautiful and haunting.

Smith’s illustrations are done in watercolor, ink and gouache. They capture both the quiet of not being able to speak as well as the connection between father and son. When they go to the water of the river, the illustrations show the bubbling and crashing, taking the boy into the river as he swims to the calm open water. They are exquisite.

A marvel of a book that beams with empathy and understanding of stuttering. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Neal Porter Books.

All Along the River by Magnus Weightman

All Along the River by Magnus Weightman

All Along the River by Magnus Weightman (9781605375182)

The journey following the river and waterway begins with Bunny losing her rubber ducky into the flow of the stream from the glacier near their home. She and her brothers hop into their boat to catch up to the toy. Soon they are floating past a pine forest, filled with other animals on picnics, racing motorcycles, kayaking, cycling, hiking, and much more. The river moves past farmland full of cows and horses, then spills into a huge lake where it is still hard to glimpse the toy floating. Look closely! After a glorious waterfall, the scene moves to a medieval town and European castles. Then a factory appears, pumping steam and water. Rain starts and the river slows to explore small islands. Windmills and tulips appear until a harbor is reached with a broad sea. Finally the toy is caught again. But what other stories did you see along the way?

This thoroughly Dutch picture book is a very entertaining seek-and-find book that is complicated and funny. Readers will need to lean in closely and read the book multiple times to follow all of the clever story arcs contained in the book. Nicely, Weightman outlines some of the ones to watch for in introductory pages.

The book does have words, but they are nearly unnecessary as the real star of the book are the incredibly detailed landscapes filled with foxes, rabbits, bears, pigs, and lots of other animals. Throughout the action, there are lovely moments of blissful floating, meeting new people, and a strong sense of a large community together.

An exceptional seek-and-find book with a European flair. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Clavis.

Review: Along the Tapajos by Fernando Vilela

Along the Tapajos by Fernando Vilela

Along the Tapajos by Fernando Vilela, translated by Daniel Hahn (9781542008686)

A boy and his family live along the Tapajos River, one of the biggest rivers in the Amazon rainforest. He and his sister take a boat to get to school. He loves to see the alligators along the way, while she prefers the porpoises. Under the water, lurk some even larger animals just waiting for someone to fall in the water. At school, the rain suddenly begins, starting the winter season that is filled with torrential rainfall and flooding. Everyone rushes home to pack up and head away from the flooding. They take everything but the houses themselves. But the brother and sister have left their tortoise behind accidentally. At night, they sneak out to rescue her. They get back to their flooded village and discover the turtle just about to be devoured by a giant anaconda!

Originally published in Brazil, this picture book tells the story of a way of life that is unique to the Amazon rainforest. The author combines the story of the flooding village and the construction of a new place in the rainforest with a tale of bravery when the children rescue their pet. This also gives readers an opportunity to see the quiet beauty of the flooded village, empty of anyone. The setting itself is a major character, including the many animals, the weather and the river herself. It’s a book that carries readers to a place they never knew existed.

The illustrations are done in a mix of woodcut techniques, drawing and collage that is then used digitally. They have a great texture to them and depth thanks to the woodcuts that offer that organic feel to the images. The rain itself falls white against the golden background of the sky and the river. The book often takes a step back from the immediate action, allowing the riverscape to fill the pages in a way that is very impactful.

Journey to another part of the world in this look at the Amazon rainforest and some of the people who call it home. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Driftwood Days by William Miniver

Driftwood Days by William Miniver

Driftwood Days by William Miniver, illustrated by Charles Vess (9780802853707)

Follow the journey as a branch from a beaver’s dam heads downstream to eventually become a piece of driftwood on a beach. A boy watches in the autumn trees as a branch breaks away from the dam and takes a winding journey. It gets stuck for a frozen winter and then is loosened again and gets into the ocean. There, it serves as a perch for birds, gets caught in a net, and is once again thrown back into the salt water. When it eventually washes onto the beach, the wood is entirely transformed into driftwood. It is picked up by the same boy, who uses it to draw on the beach and then takes it home to watch the beavers next autumn.

Miniver offers an informational author’s note in the final pages that explains the importance of driftwood for the ecological system of woods, streams, oceans and beaches. The loss in the amount of driftwood is impacting these environments negatively. The journey of one branch into becoming driftwood is a clever way to show how the transformation works and also to highlight the various parts of the environment that driftwood touches and impacts. The art is done colored pencil and ink with deep, soft colors that will have readers leaning in to explore the nature revealed on the journey to the ocean.

A quiet adventure that highlights the interconnectivity of the nature around us all. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans.

Review: River by Elisha Cooper

River by Elisha Cooper

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.

Review: Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (9780316464475)

A river flowed through the forest. The river had no idea it could have adventures until a big bear came along. As the curious bear toppled into the river, the adventure began. Soon Bear was joined by Froggy and they both climbed onto a log which headed down the river. Along the way, others joined them too. There was the beaver who could captain, the turtles who were worried about disaster, the raccoons who didn’t know how to be careful, and the duck they crashed into. Then came the waterfall…

Morris has written a book that begs to be shared aloud. From the various personalities of all of the creatures to the shared adventure that is filled with twists and turns, this book is full of fun. Morris uses an interesting turn of phrase throughout the book, with each additional animal and the river itself not knowing what they are capable of. It’s a great lens as each of the animals learns that they are not alone but instead part of a larger community and world.

Pham’s illustrations are zany and ever so funny. He completely captures the personalities of each of the characters as they head down the river. From their body language to their expressions, these creatures are in for a lot of adventure together. The added joy of the maps of the river as the endpages are great. Grayed-out at first, they are full color at the end.

A wild ride of a book that is really all about shared fun and community. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff (9781554989775, Amazon)

The river is the way that everyone travels in Brazil. Crowded with boats, the river flows. There are two in a canoe, boats filled with potted plants and others that are bustling kitchens. Some boats are schools and others are stores. There are boats filled with shared music, while others sleep in the sun. Throughout there is a sense of community and happiness as life and the river flow by.

Starkoff uses only a few words per page. They invite readers to see the river as a place of connection and community. Readers will also enjoy the names of the various vessels that speak to the feeling of joy that pervades the entire book. The illustrations are vibrant and loud with the river and sky a zingy yellow that adds pizzazz to the images. Children will love following various characters through their day on the river and watching new friendships develop before their eyes.

An import from Brazil, this book has a low key vibe that is full of laid back joy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Creekfinding by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Creekfinding: A True Story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Claudia McGehee (9780816698028)

This picture book tells the true story of a lost creek that used to cross a prairie meadow. Then a farmer bulldozed dirt into the creek to create more farm land. Years later, another man purchased the field and heard from a neighbor about the creek that used to be there. He decided to try to find that creek. So he dug a creek bottom after consulting historic photographs of the land. He hoped that the water would return and it did. But a creek is more than running water and now it was up to him to bring more rocks, more plants and eventually trout in his newly rediscovered creek.

This book focuses on a compelling topic. That the land we live and farm on once used to be very different from the way it is now and that we can work to return it to its more natural state. The picture book has wonder at its center, the amazing notion that water once buried will return to a dry creek bed. It also focuses on the hard work that it took and the incredible problem solving that went into rebuilding the creek from literally the bottom up. Slowly it become reality with lots of work and patience.

The illustrations by McGehee are based directly on her visit to the land the book is about. Done on scratchboard, the illustrations have a wonderful weight to them, capturing the deep greens of the prairie, the richness of the biodiversity, and the transformation of the land.

A fascinating topic that is just right for environmental units or Earth Day, this picture book is a celebration of nature and man working together. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Review: The Good Ship Crocodile by J. Patrick Lewis

good ship crocodile

The Good Ship Crocodile by J. Patrick Lewis and Monique Felix

Snout was a crocodile who lived on a river.  During the rainy season, the water level would rise and other animals would get into trouble.  The fireflies could not fly in the falling rain, so they asked Snout to carry them to the other side of the river.  Across they went, riding on his back and even in his mouth.  Day after day, Snout carried animals across the river to safety.  Finally, when the sun came out again, Snout realized that he could no longer see his home because he had drifted far downstream.  Now it was Snout’s turn to ask the other animals for help returning to his home.

Lewis served as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2011-2013 and in this picture book, you can see his skill with words on every page.   Lewis creates an entire world here, including an unusually kind crocodile.  His words are so simple and uncomplicated, yet they create a sturdy structure for the story.  He doesn’t offer rationalizations for why this crocodile is so kind, but clearly shows that doing kindness for others will inspire them to do it for you when you need it most.

The illustrations in this book are breathtaking.  Felix creates a crocodile that looks wonderfully real, particularly in the very close up images.  As the crocodile takes different animals across the river, the text goes silent, allowing time for the reader to mentally make the journey too.  It also builds a great tension where readers will wonder if he will snap his jaws shut at any moment. 

Beautifully told and illustrated, this is a strong addition to any story time on crocodiles or kindness.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.