I Am the Storm by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell (9780593222751)
This picture book focuses on four types of storms that children may encounter where they live: tornado, blizzard, hurricane, and wild fires. The family with a tornado nearby has a party in their basement together with cards and books by flashlight. When the storm had passed, they cleared up afterwards. When the blizzard came to another family, they bundled up and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows in the fireplace. After the storm, they shoveled the snow and made a snowman. When the wildfires came, that family left the area and went camping. They could still see the smoke. When the fires were out, they swept up ashes and washed windows. When the hurricane came, that family moved away from the coast to stay with cousins and then returned home when the storm was over.
This picture book is a glimpse of the power and impact of nature and its storms. It also shows how preparations can help keep everyone safe during a storm, no matter what kind it is. The book ends with deep empathy for how scared children can be during storms and a way for children to see themselves in nature and even the storms that pass and bring calm behind them. The text is simple and reads aloud well, inviting readers to see storms and fires as events that need respect for their power but don’t have to have children living in fear.
The illustrators use a wide-ranging color palette to evoke the different kinds of storms. With black and purple storm clouds, the eerie orange color of a tornado arrives. The icy blue of winter blizzards illuminates the entire house. The hurricane too arrives with purple swirling with black. After each storm, there is a lightness to the illustrations, a sense of new space in the images.
As climate change makes storms and fires more severe, this is a timely book to share. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Penguin Workshop.
Every Color of Light by Hiroshi Osada, illustrated by Ryoji Arai, translated by David Boyd (9781592702916)
This picture book explores how weather impacts the sky and its light. Starting with just a pitter patter of rain, the rain steadily grows heavier and louder. Soon the lightning cracks across the sky and thunder booms. Colors swirl in the storm as the wind rises. Just as suddenly, the rain stops and light returns to the sky. Raindrops form crystals in the sunlight. Evening comes, spreading colors across the sky. The white moon rises in the darkening sky. Stars sparkle above, the moon reflected in a pool as everyone falls asleep.
The text in this Japanese import is marvelously poetic. It speaks to the impact of a storm on the sky and on the light you see. The drama of the storm is captured in both the text and the illustrations, just as the returning calm is. Both are celebrated in the book, something quite unusual as the quiet is allowed to be truly focused on.
The illustrations are what sets this picture book apart. Illustrated with glorious paintings that show nature and the changing light, the book shimmers and shines. The changing light sweeps on the pages bringing sun shafts, pink lightning strikes, dark night, and a bright moon.
Unusual and intensely beautiful, this picture book beckons you outside to linger for awhile. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Enchanted Lion Books.
Welcome to your new day. The sun invites you to play when you wake up, creating a square on your pillow. Creatures are up and moving, snails scribbling across the sidewalk, inchworms measuring out their paths, and tadpoles punctuating the streams. There are things to find: leaves with paths imprinted on them, pebbles smoothed by the water. Then a storm arrives with lightning and thunder, rain pounding down. Mud is created to wriggle your toes in. Long shadows capture the approaching evening until night falls with a sky of stars and the voice of a cricket thrumming you to sleep.
Portis creates quite an invitation to head outside and experience nature with all of your senses from touching stones and leaves to feeling the rain to hearing the thunder and seeing the stars. It is all an immersive experience for the reader. Portis’ text is deceptively short and simple. Yet within each four-line verse she creates almost haiku moments of discovery.
The art was done in brush and sumi ink, leaf prints, and vine charcoal with the lettering done by hand. The illustrations are large and bold, offering a book that will work well shared with a group. They have a wonderful natural feel to them, tactile and warm.
Ideal for a summer day. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Neal Porter Books.
When a storm blows in, the farm animals and wildlife take shelter together in the barn. There are pigs, goats, horses, cows, sheep, geese, cats, dogs, chickens, raccoons, turtles, turkeys, squirrels, mice and more! But outside in the storm, a fox family is caught in the rain after their home is flooded. The adult fox heads to the barn, carefully looking inside. She is sent away, the other animals saying that the barn is too full to take her in. But then one little yellow duckling steps out into the darkness and a connection is made. Soon all of the animals are inside drying off together. Other wild animals come later and more room is found, room for all.
Vaught writes here in simple paired rhyming lines that carry the story forward. She is incorporates interesting words into her poetry, such as “asunder” and “dapple.” They will have children stretching and building vocabulary in the most organic and natural of ways.
The illustrations are truly the star of this beautiful book. Filled with a compelling mix of two-page spreads, one page images and sometimes groupings of vignettes, the illustrations are detailed and just right to pore over. Murphy’s art gives each of the animals their own personality, showing clearly how attitudes change from the beginning to the end of the book. The final pages offer a wordless look at the farm after the storm with everyone happily mingling together.
A look at prejudice and inclusion in a way that all children will understand. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
When the snow starts to fall, a snowplow driver and his dog head out into the night to clear the roads. They do safety checks and get the hopper filled with salt and sand. Then they are off into the dark to clear the snow from the roads. Giant drifts are formed as they plow past while branches grow heavy with snow. When a car goes by too fast and ends up in the ditch, the plow calls dispatch for a tow for them. At the railroad tracks, the plow driver also stops, stepping out of the cab of his truck into into the hush of the night. The train goes by, creating a cloud of white. The driver heads home just as others start to wake and falls asleep in bed as the sun rises.
Bruss captures the quiet beauty of a snowstorm as she tells about the night work of clearing the roads. She writes with a poetic touch, creating dramatic moments in the story like the train going past and the car skidding into the ditch, but also embracing the silent work of the plow and the hush of the storm.
The illustrations are wonderful, offering looks at the big truck that will appeal to youngsters who love heavy machinery but also beautifully capturing the storm. One double-spread in particular has just the right light as the truck goes through town. Anyone living in a northern state will recognize that light and the quiet moment before the plow comes through.
Ideal for winter reading, curl up with this one before being plowed out yourself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Fionn has never visited his grandfather on Arranmore Island. His mother left and never returned after his father died in a storm. So Fionn is surprised to find that his grandfather is seen as a very important man on the island. He is the Storm Keeper and it is his job to capture memories and weather in candles that are then released when lit. As Fionn learns of the magic of the island itself, he discovers that another boy from a different island family is planning to use up the single wish given to their entire generation. Now Fionn must race him to find the hidden sea cave and make a wish that could save his family. Fionn grows more and more connected to the island as he spends time and explores, but something dark is also reaching out to him, something that wants Fionn’s very soul.
Doyle weaves a complex and intricate tale in this book for middle-grade readers. The island setting of the book is truly a character in the tale since the island is aware and able to control certain things. The island is rough and rugged, a place filled with opportunities, magic and danger. Fionn is connected to the island in a deep way that is revealed throughout the book. Doyle’s writing is fresh and honest. She gives Fionn and the reader a chance to explore for themselves and discover the layers of magic on Arranmore as the story progresses. There is a lot going on in this book with a magical island, a historic mage battle, family problems, dementia, depression and more. But it written in a way that allows readers to steadily take on the information. The book is a complete world rather than a narrow peek inside.
Fionn is a strongly-written character as is his grandfather. Those two are the most robustly drawn characters in the novel. Fionn is a younger sibling, tormented by his older sister most of the time. He is excluded from being with the others his age and spends much of his time alone with his grandfather or out on the island. His tie to his dead father is a major theme, since the islanders know he looks just like him. Fionn’s grandfather is a man steeped in magic. His candles surround him filled with memories even as his own mind fails him. He exudes warmth and charm, working to make sure the next Storm Keeper will succeed against the darkness that is coming. Their relationship is bittersweet, one of lost opportunities with Fionn’s father and a sense of impending loss due to the grandfather’s worsening memory.
Unique and dynamic, this novel is full of magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Trevor by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Amy Hevron (9781250148285)
Trevor is a very lonely canary who knows that he can escape his cage at any time, but stays put for the seeds. He has one favorite kind, sunflower seeds, that he saves for when he is feeling loneliest. When Trevor sees a lemon outside of his window, he tries to get it to sing with him. He even gives it his last striped sunflower seed, but it won’t eat. The lemon doesn’t reply to Trevor at all and doesn’t give him any gifts in return. Still, Trevor builds a nest in the tree for himself and the lemon. Meanwhile, the seed has fallen to the ground below. Eventually, a storm comes and Trevor must try to save the lemon. When he reaches the ground, he discovers the sunflower has sprouted and grown, scattering seeds across the ground. When a group of hungry birds arrives, Trevor quickly realizes what real friendship feels like.
Averbeck keeps the text of this picture book very simple, making it just right for younger listeners and good to share aloud. The emotions that Trevor feels in the book take center stage, from frustration at the lemon to eventual forgiveness to acceptance about their differences. Trevor is a great mix of brave, inquisitive and friendly as he makes his way into the larger world.
Hevron’s illustrations are painted onto wood. She cleverly allows the wood to show through to create tree branches and leaf spines. Against the pale blue background, the leaves, lemon and Trevor himself pop. One can see the wood grain throughout the book, both covered in color and plain. It makes for a very organic and natural feel.
A lovely quiet picture book about new friends and what to do when life gives you lemons. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.
Newbery Medal winning author Patricia MacLachlan returns with a gorgeous little book. Two siblings, brother and sister, are trapped in a snowstorm. They had been left with the car when their mother went for help, but were warned that if the car was entirely covered with snow, it might be a dangerous place to stay. Nearby lives Teddy, a dog raised by a poet, so a dog who understands words and can even speak. However, only two kinds of people understand him, poets and children. Teddy discovers the children and brings them back to the poet’s home, a home that he hasn’t entered since his beloved human companion died. Soon the children are making the house into a different kind of home, but no less filled with the beauty of words and the feelings of love.
MacLachlan has created a lovely short book that wraps readers in warmth. It is as if readers too have been rescued from the cold and the dark, welcomed into a place of firelight and sustenance. It is an enchanting book that brings back the feelings of being at home during a storm and knowing you are safe and secure. MacLachlan’s writing is assured and masterful. She is so succinct and deft in her storytelling that she manages to offer a full story in less than fifty pages and even make it feel leisurely and special.
Throughout the book, Teddy the dog explores what it is to be special to someone, loved by someone and then to lose that person. Through his memories readers see how Sylvan, the poet, died and how Teddy has managed to stay on the property. As he works through his grief with the children near him, there is a strong sense of the importance of poetry and words and expression.
A very moving and noteworthy addition to MacLachlan’s exceptional body of work, this book is exquisite. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss.
The Branch by Mireille Messier, illustrated by Pierre Pratt
Released September 6, 2016.
During an ice storm, a little girl is awakened by a loud sound outside. It turns out to be her favorite branch falling from the tree in her yard. It was the branch she played on, dreamed about and that was a big part of her day. The little girl asks to keep the branch after finding out that it can’t be reattached to the tree and her mother agrees. Her neighbor is next door with his chain saw and the girl stands guard so that no one takes her branch. Her neighbor, Mr. Frank, sees her standing there and asks about her branch. He sees “potential” in it and offers to help her make something with it. It turns out to be just the right solution, one that helps the girl remember the fun she had and looks forward to future happiness too.
Messier conveys the little girl’s emotions very clearly. From the feel of the fallen branch to her attachment to it to the importance of creating something new with it. Each moment echoes with emotions, creating a book that is conducive to discussing feelings with young children listening to the story. The book is also anchored in sensations, the feel of the icy branch in her hands, the noise of the chain saw, the hard work of transforming the branch into something else.
The illustrations by Pratt are filled with deep colors that brighten the pages. The beauty and destruction of the ice storm are captured, each branch encased in ice. The change is seasons is also nicely shown, moving from ice and snow to green in the illustrations.
A book about resilience, connections to nature and its power, and the value of memories, this picture book is full of potential itself. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Kids Can Press and Netgalley.