Swamps of Sleethe

The Swamps of Sleethe by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Jimmy Pickering.

Climb into your spaceship and travel from one strange world to another, each with some strange twist and surprise.  It’s a trip that only Prelutsky could take you on with his signature mix of poetic humor and chills.  Each world is captured with a single poem that is paired with illustrations by Pickering which are equally funny and dark.  Part of the fun of the book is unscrambling the planets names into words that describe them.  Pure word fun from beginning to end!

Prelutsky takes readers from icy planets to dangerous forests.  You will visit planets with water you should not drink and planets with air you should not breathe.  Danger lurks around every corner, usually in surprising places with even more astonishing results.  This book is dark, showing one way after another to die on distant planets.  Middle-school and early elementary children will embrace it.  It’s not for preschoolers.

If you are asked to read for a 4th or 5th grade class, this book would be a perfect read aloud.  You will get gasps and giggles often at the same time.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Also reviewed by A Patchwork of Books.

You Are the First Kid on Mars

You Are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O’Brien

What would it be like to be the first kid on Mars?  This picture book takes readers on a journey to the red planet, offering intriguing details along the way.  First, readers learn a bit about the planet itself, then there is docking with the space station and the four month trip to get to Mars.  Landing on the dusty planet surface, plus a look at the station on Mars are highlights of the book.  Also intriguing is the question of life on Mars, answered without sensationalism. 

The entire book exudes a feeling of reality, which makes the reading all that more immediate and satisfying.  Children will find new questions as they read, intrigued by false gravity aboard the ship, inflated green houses, and robots used to explore the planets.  O’Brien’s text is like that of a nonfiction book for children, offering captions and a mix of close-ups and smaller images.  His illustrations are clearly paintings, but such lifelike ones that readers may just forget they aren’t looking at a photograph.

Sure to rocket right off the shelves, this book will satisfy space-loving kids.  Appropriate for ages 5-8. 

Check out O’Brien’s website for some gorgeous images from the book.

Children interested in Mars exploration will enjoy the Mars Rover Documentary that can be found on YouTube:

One Giant Leap

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh, paintings by Mike Wimmer.

In this stunning picture book, Wimmer’s remarkably realistic and expressive paintings are paired with Burleigh’s evocative and powerful verse.  Together the two capture the feeling of the moonwalk for Americans in 1969.  Children who have long known we reached the moon will be caught up in the drama of the landing and the uncertainty of the astronauts’ safe return. 

Burleigh’s poetry dances with a rhythm and deft pacing.  When readers are holding their breath with the tension, the poems come to a near halt too.  When readers are celebrating the accomplishment the poetry races, lifts, and spins.  Wimmer’s paintings are equally successful as they capture views that couldn’t be seen, scenes that were never viewed before.  They too are filled with realism, fear, and continually hope.

A masterful pairing of paintings and verse, this book soars.  Highly recommended for classrooms talking about the moon landing as well as children who are interested in space.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.