Now by Antoinette Portis

Now by Antoinette Portis

Now by Antoinette Portis (9781626721371, Amazon)

This picture book celebrates living in the now as a little girl walks readers through her favorite things. Each of them is her favorite because it is the one she is interacting with right then. It is her favorite cloud because it’s the one she is watching. This is her favorite song because it’s the one she is singing.

The book is pure simplicity with its concept and the art. The concept is used throughout the book, the writing straight forward and also celebrating something deeper too. It’s about a connection to the present moment and a joy in just spending time doing exactly what you are doing and loving it.

The art of the picture book also speaks to the connection with the now. Done in thick lines and rich matte colors, the illustrations show the playful nature of simple pleasures in life.

Perfect for those of us who love the book we are reading right now most of all, this picture book is about simple pleasures and enjoying the current moment fully. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

My Pictures After the Storm by Éric Veillé

My Pictures After the Storm by Éric Veillé

My Pictures After the Storm by Éric Veillé (9781776571048, Amazon)

Before and after takes a humorous turn in this picture book. The first part of each pair of illustrations shows normalcy. Then something happens and everything changes. In the first pages, there are items from a beach and then after the storm things are tipped over, towels blow away, and ice cream falls. Lunch is shown and then after lunch everything is munched and changed. Other changes get more silly such as animals going to a hairdresser or mislabeled objects get relabeled or creatures eat too many potato chips.

Veillé has created a picture book that is a joy to share. The pictures are fun to explore and children will love spotting the differences. There is a zany nature to the illustrations, done in simple lines and bright, flat colors. The simplicity adds to the fun as the objects shift and change after an event.

Much more than a concept book, this is a funny and wry look at the chaos of life before and after. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Gecko Press.

Review: The World in a Second by Isabel Minhos Martins

world in a second

The World in a Second by Isabel Minhos Martins, illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho (InfoSoup)

This picture book explores time and the way that things happen all at once across the world. Small moments are captured from various countries: an elevator stuck in New York City, a horn honks in traffic in Mexico, a volcano erupts, a boy learns to balance on his bike. One after another these snapshots of time are happening all at once and yet also form a lovely series of events that are all entirely human and show how interrelated our world actually is.

The concept is at once immensely simple and also incredibly complex, the understanding that your own life is just one of many being lived at the very same time. Martins embraces that duality in the book, capturing those universal moments but also showing the diversity around the world. A guide at the end of the book includes a map of where the various events take place all at the same time. There is a distinct wonder to the book, a feeling that the world is both larger and smaller than it had seemed to be a second before.

Carvalho’s illustrations are bold and graphic. He uses thick black lines to create scenes that are active and beautiful. One page contrasts with the next, showing diverse people and settings. The result is a feeling of moving clearly from one place to the next with each turn of the page, from lush jungles to concrete settings, from bright sunlight to clouded evening.

Perfect to start discussions about time and place and even time zones, this picture book allows children to think in a bigger way about their world, diversity and their own place. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

ghosts of heaven

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

Sedgwick once again takes readers on a unique journey, this time all bound together by spirals both symbolically and tangibly.  Told in four sections, which Sedgwick explains can be read in any order, the book begins in Paleolithic time with a young girl who has become a woman but not yet borne children being selected to travel to the special caves where someone more important with do the painting on the cave walls.  She is meant solely to climb the walls burdened with his supplies.  But the story twists and turns away from what is expected into a different story entirely.  The second tale is of the witch hunts in England, where another girl is trying to survive after her mother’s death.  Her mother was the cunning woman of the village, caring for the health of everyone.  And the girl has caught the eye of the landowner’s son, but things are not that simple and when a new religious leader comes to town, the girl finds herself at the sharp end of his attention.  The third tale brings readers into the world of a 1920s asylum for the mentally ill where a poet who is incarcerated there is obsessed with spirals and draws a young doctor into his world.  The final story is set in the future, aboard a spaceship where only one person wakes at a time, keeping the ship maintained as it heads on its lengthy journey that will save the human race.  Then things start going wrong.  Four stories, each spiraled with one another into a whole novel that is dark, deep and incredibly engaging.

Each of these stories stands on its own merit, each one more dazzling than the next.  Yet as a whole it is where they are truly powerful, tied together with spirals of time, spirals of power, the spiral of humanity too.  Sedgwick excels at creating tension in each of these stories, each building ever so cleverly and enticingly towards an ending that readers long to arrive and yet dread.  Sometimes you know where they are headed, others you have no idea, and in each there are connections to the others, echoes from one story to the next through time and space.

This is a book that requires strong teen readers.  Some of the stories are less about teens than about adults, yet it is the stories of those teen girls that echo through time, tying the stories into one novel.  It is a book that will be welcomed in high school classrooms, one that insists on discussion, one that will resonate with certain readers who see the world as one enormous spiral too.

Exquisite writing, beautifully plotted and filled with powerful tension, this novel for teens is a great way to start a  new year.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Roaring Brook Press and Netgalley.

Review: Before After by Matthias Aregui

before after

Before After by Matthias Aregui and Anne-Margot Ramstein

The passage of time is captured beautifully in this wordless book that shows one example after another of before and then after.  The book is a delightful mix of concepts with examples from nature, pop culture and plenty of humor.   An acorn before becomes an oak tree after.  A small ape before becomes King Kong after.  Ingredients become a cake and a few pages later the cake is eaten and left as crumbs.  But what came first, the chicken or the egg.  This book takes a wry and balanced view of that debate by showing both in sequence.  One never knows what the page turn will bring, and that’s part of the appeal in this clever and funny book.

Wordless books are often short, but this book is nice and thick, the entire book offering lots to think about and plenty of chuckles along the way.  While it may seem to be more for preschoolers, older elementary aged children will get more of the references in the book like the chicken and the egg and King Kong.  They will also appreciate the passage of time visually on the page as ice melts to water.  Additionally, some of the images are more complex with a cow becoming milk but also becoming a picture of a cow.  Very meta. 

For children with reading difficulties in elementary school, this would be a great book to start discussions.  It is also a wonderful way to wile away some time looking at an outstanding example of wordless art that delights.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

glass sentence

The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

Released June 12, 2014.

The first book in a new fantasy trilogy by a debut author, this novel features incredible world-building and an amazing young heroine.  The world changed when the Great Disruption happened in 1799.  When the Disruption occurred different points of time were merged together into a single world.  Now almost 100 years after the Disruption, Sophia lives in Boston which is part of New Occident.  She lives with her uncle after her parents disappeared while exploring other eras when she was a child.  Her uncle is one of the best map makers and map readers in the world, a skill that become necessary when the world changed.  But then her uncle is kidnapped and their home ransacked.  Sophia finds herself journeying to Nochtland with a boy she just met following a clue her uncle left her before he was taken.  Her journey will lead her to different times and different places in the company of many different characters.  Little does she know, but it’s a journey to save the world.

Grove’s novel brims with details about this new world she has envisioned.  The world is a unique one, unlike anything I have ever read before.  It’s a mix of historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction and adventure.  The addition of the different eras in time makes for a book that is surprising and great fun to read.  It also offers all sorts of new and varied adventures for the subsequent books in the trilogy. 

I must admit to not being a huge fan of books with lots of traveling and quests, but Grove maintains the brisk pace of the novel throughout and the travel is an important part of the story itself.  Grove brings her world fully to life, making sure to fill it with characters that readers will embrace and enjoy spending time with.  Sophia is a girl with lots of brains and plenty of bravery, but one who has been sheltered much of her life.  My favorite character though is the villain of the story, Blanca, who steals memories from people using sand.  She is incredibly creepy and frightening, yet has her own motivation and goals beyond just stealing memories.

Get this into the hands of fans of complex fantasy like The Golden Compass, they will find a whole new world to love here.  Appropriate for ages 11-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Review: At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin

at the same moment

At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin

Travel around the world all in a single moment and explore the time zones in this picture book.  It all begins at 6:00 in the morning in Senegal where they are counting the fish caught the night before.  Then the book moves one time zone after another, so at the same exact time it is 8 am in Bulgaria where a boy chases a school bus.  It is also noon in the Himalayas where they are eating lunch.  On the pages turn, hour by hour, yet each in the same exact point of time.  This book is a tour of not only our world but of the time zones and how we structure time on earth.

Perrin has very cleverly created a book that truly displays how time zones work around the world.  She has also worked to make this a very inclusive book that celebrates our diversity as well as the time structure that holds us all together.  Each page is another country, another way of life, another glimpse into a lifestyle.

Perrin’s art is fine-lined and detailed.  She plays with light and dark as the day passes as we move around the world.  There are details on each of the images that also speak directly to that country.  I would have appreciated more information at the end of the book about these touches.  At the end of the book is a fold-out map that is very useful and will be critical in getting children to truly understand time zones.  It’s a very welcome addition.

A clever way to approach time zones, this book comes full circle by the end, returning to the same moment in Senegal.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Just a Second by Steve Jenkins

just a second

Just a Second: A Different Way to Look at Time by Steve Jenkins

Jenkins always manages to make science and nature even more fascinating than it usually is.  In this book, he shows the passage of time in unique and  intriguing ways that will get young scientists thinking differently.  What happens in one second?  Well, in that second a bat can make 200 calls or hummingbird beats its wings 50 times.  What happens in one minute?  In a minute a grizzly bear can charge up to one half-mile or a skydiver falls 2 miles during free fall.  How about an hour?  A day?  A week?  Longer?  For all of these, Jenkins selects intriguing examples of what happens during that time period that will have you thinking about time and what can be done in ways you never expected.

Jenkins’ paper collage art is on display here, vibrant against the plain backgrounds of the pages.  His exacting art uses pattern, subtle color changes and textures to great effect.  His collage work is done with such attention to detail that it often doesn’t look like cut paper work.  It is as beautiful as his work always is.

Jenkins has selected fascinating bits of trivia to put on display here.  This book will not give you the complete story of the natural examples, but will definitely open readers’ minds to new ways of looking at time and action.  It is one of those books that invites you to explore the ideas that capture your imagination further in other places. 

A great gateway book that broadens the mind, this nonfiction book is appropriate for ages 5-9. 

Reviewed from library copy.