Review: You Are Light by Aaron Becker

You Are Light by Aaron Becker

You Are Light by Aaron Becker (9781536201154)

Caldecott Honor winner Becker has created his first board book and what a beauty it is! The book almost glows with light and comes fully alive when raised toward the sun or a lamp where the colored circles shine. As the pages turn, light is celebrated. The way that it warms land, sips the sea, makes the rain, makes crops grow, and lights the moon. Particularly though, the light in each person is celebrated.

This board book is wonderfully simple and exceptionally designed. As pages turn, the primary colors overlap to form secondary colors and a complete rainbow, yet another way that light enters our lives. The poetry is effective and evocative, speaking to the power of light in our world. Still, it is the design and colors that truly make this book something particularly special.

Just right for learning colors and seeing a little one’s connection to the world. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick.

Review: The Shadow in the Moon by Christina Matula

The Shadow in the Moon A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival by Christina Matula

The Shadow in the Moon: A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival by Christina Matula, illustrated by Pearl Law (9781580897464)

The whole family gathers for the Mid-Autumn Festival to give thanks for the harvest. They will look at the moon and then each person makes a wish for the upcoming year. As the mooncakes are served, Ah-ma tells the story of Chang’e, the Spirit and Lady in the Moon. It was in a time when there were ten suns in the sky, baking the earth. The suns would not listen and stop shining so hard, so a young archer, Hou Yi, shot down nine of the moons. The last one he asked to share the sky with the moon. Hou Yi was given a magic potion for his courage by the Immortals. When a thief came to steal the potion, Hou Yi’s wife, Chang’e, drank it rather than have it fall into the wrong hands. The potion turned her into the Spirit and Lady in the Moon. Hou Yi discovered what had happened and would sit in the garden and look up at the moon, providing mooncakes on the anniversary of the day she transformed. After the story, the girls are ready to light their paper lanterns and make their wishes, inspired by the heroism of Hou Yi and Chang’e.

Matula merges a modern tale of a Chinese family with the legend that inspired this festival. The two stories are clearly separate, which works really well for a young audience. Her writing is clear, describing the mooncakes in a mouthwatering way and the inspiring actions of the legendary characters in a way that allows the melancholy yet beautiful tale to shine. The illustrations also make a clear distinction between the stories. The modern family is shown on white backgrounds that are clean and crisp. The legend is shown with primarily deep jeweled colors as the background, inviting readers into the richness of the tale.

A wonderful and warm introduction to Chinese festivals, this picture book offers a look at how festivals carry on in modern society while also telling the story behind it all. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Charlesbridge.

Review: Sun by Sam Usher

Sun by Sam Usher

In the third book by Usher that focuses on a specific type of weather, this one is sun-filled and summery. Told in the first person by the boy, he awakens to a sunny day that is just right for an outdoor adventure even if it’s “hotter than the Atacama Desert.” The two set off together with provisions and a large map. They walk and walk until they discover just the right place for a rest. Then they walk some more until they found some shade. More walking brought them to a huge cave. But when they enter, they discover some real adventure inside.

Usher’s books are told very simply. This picture book starts out as entirely reality based and then takes a marvelous fantastical turn when the pair enters the cave. All along, it is hinted at that they are walking on a real journey. The illustrations help tell this tale, showing huge skies, long areas to traverse and a changing landscape. User uses watercolors for the skies, creating vistas filled with summer heat colors that swirl on the page.

A winner in a great series, this one is just right for summer reading. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson

This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson

This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Suzy Lee (9781481441391, Amazon)

Three children are spending a gray day inside as it pours rain. Then they start to dance and twirl, pulling blue into their day. They head outside with umbrellas and boots, walking through puddles, jumping and stomping. The rain ends and other come out with yellow and pink umbrellas and clothes, the colors starting to fill the page. Their umbrellas float up into the sky that is now blue with white clouds. The group of children play together in the field of flowers, climbing trees, rescuing umbrellas, and then treats back at home on a lovely day.

Jackson’s text is filled with motion and rhythm. It invites readers to swirl and twirl with the characters on the page. The action words in the text zing and zip, moving the book forward even as they celebrate the bad weather and move to the sunshine. There is a sense of optimism throughout the book, an acceptance and joy of rainy weather and then a true delight when it becomes sunny later.

Lee’s illustrations are lovely. They use color so skillfully, showing first the gray day while the children are quietly playing alone and then the single swirls of blue that color the children and their clothing. The book slowly unfolds with color, until it bursts like the meadow of flowers and the sun in the trees.

Share this one on rainy and sunny days. Just have umbrellas and boots ready along with popsicles too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.

 

Rivers of Sunlight by Molly Bang

Rivers of Sunlight by Molly Bang

Rivers of Sunlight: How the Sun Moves Water around the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm (9780545805414, Amazon, GoodReads)

This is the fourth picture book collaboration between Bang and Chisholm. All of the picture books done by Bang as author and illustrator and Chisholm, professor of Ecology at MIT have focused on the sun. This picture book is all about how the sun works to move water through the water cycle on earth. The role of the sun as it evaporates water to vapor. The way the sun heats and cools water. The way that water moves around the earth via ocean currents. It’s a book about the power of the sun and the value of water on earth with an emphasis on conservation and care.

Bang and Chisholm have created a group of picture books that celebrate our earth and the wonder of the sun. This book includes water, looking at the small amount of fresh water that actually exists on earth, the way that water cycles through our world, and the power of the sun in all of these systems. The book is told in the voice of the sun, speaking as the source of winds, the power of evaporation, the source of ocean currents.

Bang’s illustrations are lit by the sun. She rims trees in yellow, lights mountains in gold, and swirls lemon through the oceans. She shows the water in the atmosphere as a river of its own, dappled and bright but also subtle against the bolder parts of the illustrations. There is a delicacy to it that emphasizes how humans can damage water on our planet.

Another winner from this collaboration of art and science, this picture book shines. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from The Blue Sky Press.

Review: Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey

Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey

Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey (InfoSoup)

All Moon wanted was to spend just one day as the Sun. The Sun agreed with two conditions. The first was that their switch would not be for just one day, but it would be permanent. The second was that Moon had to spend one more night in the sky, and this time he had to spend his time really looking at the earth below. The Moon agreed though he expected to only see a sleepy earth below him. Instead though, he saw city lights, foxes getting ready to hunt, children dreaming, flowers blooming that only open at night, the stars around him, and much more. There were even fireworks in the sky and fireflies darting too. Will Moon still want to change spots with Sun?

Structured like a folktale, this picture book speaks to the importance of both day and night. And to the important role that both our sun and our moon play in the sky and for life on earth. Yankey makes sure to honor both of them, creating timeless moments that show the Moon just how beautiful night actually is.

Yankey shows the brilliance of the night in this picture book. First she shows the beauty of the daytime with her tigers lounging and bright flowers blooming. But the book truly comes to life as the pages turn dark midnight blue and the world gets filled with the light of the moon and stars. Some pages are filled with celebrations of dreams and the wonder of the forest at night while others are quiet and subtle.

A lovely bedtime read, this picture book celebrates nighttime and its beauty. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Whatever the Weather Board Books

rain snow

sun wind

Rain by Carol Thompson

Snow by Carol Thompson

Sun by Carol Thompson

Wind by Carol Thompson

Four lovely little board books in this set by Thompson. Told very simply but with plenty of energy, these books look at different kinds of weather and children out playing in it. Rain begins with a bit of hesitation but ends with the merry fun of jumping into puddles. Snow invites children to breathe out clouds and plunk right down in the snow. Sun has clothes coming off and playing in a pool together. Wind roars from page to page but then in the end is gentle too.

Introduce toddlers to different kinds of weather and different seasons, but even more importantly get them outside to experience it themselves too!  Appropriate for ages 1-2.

Reviewed from copies received from Child’s Play.

Review: Ocean Sunlight by Molly Bang

ocean sunlight

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

Following her Living Sunlight book, this continues the story of how the sun makes life on earth possible.  Here, the focus is on the ocean and the role that sunlight plays even in the darkest depths of the sea.  The story starts with photosynthesis and food chains on dry land, then moves to the water.  Bang asks where the green plants in the ocean are except for the seaweed.  Then she shows the tiny phytoplankton that make up the plants of the sea.  The food chain is shown and the book then turns to the darkness of the deep and how the food chain works even in blackness.  It is beautiful science. 

Bang successfully combines poetry and science in this enticing picture book. Her tone is inviting, inquisitive and filled with wonder at the amazing things that happen due to our sun.  The book is written from the point of view of the sun itself and how its energy reaches everywhere on earth.  It is a celebration of the sun and of the oceans themselves too.

Chisholm’s art ranges from the glow of the yellow sun to the black deep of the ocean.  Everywhere, even in the darkness, you can see the energy of the sun.  When the phytoplankton are displayed, Chisholm shows them up close in all of their wonderful detail.  Then the energy of the sun dances above the waves in yellow dots.  The entire book sings with energy and light.

This book is a tribute to science and nature.  It’s a readable and very understandable look at the complex systems that make our lives possible.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Longest Night

The Longest Night by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ted Lewin

The longest night of the year is very cold, very still.  One of the creatures must bring back the sun.  The wind knows which creature that is.  Crow offers to fly up and bring back the sun.  Moose offers his strength to bring it back. Fox offers to sniff and search it out.  Chickadee though is the one who must bring back the sun.  But what in the world can Chickadee do?  She cannot fly high enough.  She is not strong.  She is not cunning.  But she can do what she does best.

A poem woven into a picture book, this book is exquisite.  Bauer’s poetry has a rhythm that is almost primal.  She plays with sounds, repeats refrains, and celebrates imagery.  Her poem is deep, thrumming with the energy of the forest.  It is quiet and powerful.  But most of all it is for children but without any pretense.

Lewin’s illustrations match Bauer’s poem so well.  His illustrations explore the dark, the deep, the mysterious.  They linger in blues, blacks and moonlight.  Somehow he has captured that majestic blue of a moonlit night that is so deep and so unlike day.  When the sun returns at the end of the book, one almost shields their eyes from the brightness.  His illustrations are just as evocative as the poem, just as shining, just as powerful.

Highly recommended, this book belongs in every library.  It will work for many units from poetry to winter to moon or sun.  Share this.  It is a pleasure to read aloud such wonderful writing.  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from library copy.