In the Woods by David Elliott

In the Woods by David Elliott

In the Woods by David Elliott, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey (9780763697839)

Enter the woods through this book of poetry for children. The picture book volume shares insight into the different animals living in the woods. First is the musky bear, emerging from his den in the early spring. The red fox also appears in the melting snow, hunting to feed her kits. A scarlet tanager flashes past announcing spring alongside the cowslips. Soon the grass greens, the opossum and her babies bumps along with skunks and their perfume too. Porcupine and fisher cat are also there, quiet and fierce. Hornets buzz in the air while millipedes munch on rotting leaves. Moose, beaver, turkey, raccoon, bobcat and more appear here, each with their own poem that eventually has winter returning with deer appearing ghostlike through the snow storm.

Elliott chains his poems together leading readers steadily through seasonal changes as each animal appears on the pages. The focus is not the seasons though but the animals themselves. Some get longer poems while others get a couple of lines that capture them beautifully. There is a sense that Elliott is getting to the essence of many of the creatures he is writing about here. Each poem is focused and very accessible for children.

Dunlavey’s illustrations in watercolor and mixed media are rendered digitally. Their organic feel works well with the subject matter. Each creature is shown in their habitat and turning the pages feels like rounding a new corner on a walk in the woods.

A poetic journey through the forest that is worth taking. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.

Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes

Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes

Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Wendell Minor (9781547600823)

Told in first person, this is the story of a boy moving from New York to New Mexico. He wakes up to a mountain “striped in rainbows” that he didn’t notice there the night before. He knows that deserts are only tans and browns, so he doesn’t anticipate the colors that he finds. As he leaves the house with a guide book, he quickly notices the patches of desert flowers. He discovers an adobe house, spots a magpie in the trees, and notices the broad blue spread of sky above him. As he moves on, he sees a raven, holds a lizard, and finds a tortoise. Rock formations form new skyscrapers for him.

Grimes has created a love song for the desert here, filled with all of the elements that will fascinate children who either already love the desert or who have never experienced it before. She plays against stereotypes of deserts, noting the bright flowers that bloom there, the various animals who live in that habitat and the span of sky. Through the eyes of Jayden, readers explore alongside him.

Minor brilliantly captures the beauty and expanse of the desert in this picture book. He plays with framing his landscapes at first through windows, and then in a two-page spread allows the landscape to burst in front of the reader as if they too opened a door wide and stepped through.

An ode to the beauty of the southwestern United States and its desert. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury.

Review: Tanna’s Owl by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley

Tanna’s Owl by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, illustrated by Yong Ling Kang (9781772272505)

Based on the story of the owl one of the author’s cared for as a child, this picture book offers a glimpse of life in the Arctic as an Inuit family. Tanna’s father came back from hunting with a baby owl. It was so ugly, it was somehow also cute. The owl had to be fed two or three times a day, so Tanna and her siblings caught lemmings to feed it. The owl, named Ukpik (or owl in Inuktut), lived in her father’s workshop. When the owl was hungry she would stomp her feet, sway back and forth, and chomp her beak. Soon Ukpik wanted even more to eat and everyone was tired of catching lemmings, so they started to feed her other types of meat, including caribou and fish. Her beak was very sharp, so now she had to be fed with gloves on. When summer ended, Tanna had to return to school in another community. She didn’t return home until the next summer. That’s when she found out that Ukpik had been set free. But maybe the large white owl that she saw around their home was Ukpik coming back to visit.

The authors clearly share both sides of caring for a wild animal. There is the initial joy of learning about the animal and starting to be able to understand their needs and ways of communication. Then there is the drudgery of the ongoing care. At the same time, there is a delight in being that close to a wild creature, of knowing it needs to learn to fly away someday, and knowing you are helping in some way. The book also shows modern Inuit life complete with an unusual way of attending school. 

The art is large and bold with the images fully filling both of the pages. Readers will get to see the transformation of the owl from small and gray to a graceful white bird. They will also get glimpses of the Inuit home and the wide-open setting of the Arctic.

An inspiring picture book for kids who dream of caring for wild animals themselves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Inhabit Media.

Review: Puma Dreams by Tony Johnston

Puma Dreams by Tony Johnston

Puma Dreams by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim Lamarche (9781534429796)

The narrator of this book, a young girl, longs to see a puma before they disappear entirely. There have been reports about sightings near her gram’s home. Puma kittens were found in a barn, pumas have stalked horses, and been seen dozing on a tree limb. But the girl has never seen one herself. So she spends her allowance on a fifty-pound salt lick that she put out in the field. Other animals visit the salt lick, including deer, cattle, elk, but no puma appears. The salt lick dwindles down. There are signs of a puma in the area, large paw marks left in wet dirt. Then one day at breakfast, the girl feels a prickle and looks behind her and there at the salt lick is a puma in the golden morning light.

Johnston writes in poetry in this picture book. She paints entire pictures with her words, sharing the delicate balance in nature where a species is on the decline. She shares the young narrator’s wistfulness and wonder at the puma, dreaming along with her about its life and what it is doing right then. The amazement and delight when the puma finally appears is so satisfying after the longing she has conveyed on all of the previous pages.

Lamarche’s illustrations are exceptional. They capture the landscape of grassland and mountains, illuminated by the time of day with the colors of dawn or the golden light of evening. The setting is depicted so clearly that one could almost walk to the salt lick from the house. He also shows the little girl and her gram in the images, living in connection with the land around them. The beauty of the hidden puma is also there, sometimes featured on the page and other times elusive but there.

A gorgeous picture book about dreams, plans and patience. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

Review: Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Wait, Rest, Pause Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins (9781541561922)

This nonfiction picture book explores hibernation and other forms of dormancy in cold weather. The book looks not only at animals, but at trees as they enter their own dormant winter period. Ladybugs gather together for warmth and pause until spring. Ground squirrels hibernate, shivering for hours to keep warm. Chickadees slow their hearts and pause on cold nights until the next day. Alligators sink into the mud. Earthworms go dormant during a drought until water returns. Then when water or warmth comes back, everyone returns to full life once again.

The breadth of subject matter here is impressive and makes the book far more fascinating than just being about hibernation. The writing is poetic with recurring phrases that call for the dormant species to pause… and the reader will naturally do the same. Each creature is approached in a similar way, making for a book that reads well aloud and also creating a cohesiveness that this broad a subject requires. The book ends with definitions of different types of dormancy and a bibliography for further exploration of the subject. The photographs in the book come from collections such as Getty Images and stock photos. They work well here, offering glimpses of the species dormant as well as active.

An interesting science book that will share well with a group. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press. 

Review: Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown

Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown

Even More Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown (9781338349610)

Released July 30, 2019. 

Brown returns with another look at wildlife that never get featured in children’s book about animals. Each of these animals is fascinating and Brown offers really interesting facts and tidbits about each of them. The book includes a kangaroo that lives in trees and can jump down over 60 feet without getting hurt. It also has beaked whales with peculiar teeth that hunt fish and squid. There are giant colorful squirrels from India, a killer marten from Afghanistan who can hunt deer, and a Chinese deer with fangs who can leap into trees. Page after page has an unusual animal that demonstrate that we are still learning about wildlife on Earth and that there are more animals than tigers, lions and giraffes to discover.

As with his first book, it is Martin’s writing that makes this such a pleasure to read. I find it impossible to read this book without sharing the information and humor with those around me. The facts shared are interesting and told with plenty of attitude and aside comments that make it great fun to keep learning. Each animal has data points too, such as size, what they eat, where they live, and status. Size in particular is done very nicely, using comparisons like dogs, cats and humans. Brown’s art gives each of the animals rather googly eyes and they often seem to be looking directly at the reader. They are shown in their habitat and often in motion. Other details are called out in images as well and are embedded in the text.

Smart, funny and sure to teach you something new. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from ARC provided by David Fickling Books.

Review: You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk

You Are Home An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk (9781534432826)

Journey to America’s national parks in this masterful picture book. The book begins by showing the wildlife of the parks as well as the plants that grow there. Pronghorns and a bobcat fill the pages. Then humans appear, experiencing the same nature and realizing that they are home as well. Whether you live in the city or the country, in a national park you can feel you belong. From one park to another, iconic images of their scenery is shared throughout and described. This is an immersive experience of a picture book.

Turk creates an cohesive world in this book, taking readers with him traveling to the national parks. His poetic text lingers on each page, conjuring special moments where animals pause and look up, where waterfalls pour, and where there is silence among the trees. His illustrations, done in pastel on black paper, shine and draw readers into the scenes. One can almost hear the water rush, smell the pines, and feel the breezes.

A great picture book about our national treasures. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

 

 

Review: Dream Flights on Arctic Nights by Brooke Hartman

Dream Flights on Arctic Nights by Brooke Hartman

Dream Flights on Arctic Nights by Brooke Hartman, illustrated by Evon Zerbetz (9781513261898)

An Alaska-themed bedtime story, this picture book matches gorgeous illustrations with rhyming verse. A boy makes a nighttime wish that he could fly and a raven appears at his window, ready to carry him away. The boy climbs on his back and they fly together, seeing all sorts of Alaskan wildlife along the way, such as wolves, ptarmigan, bears, and sea lions. For awhile, the boy flies on his own near eagles, then a snowy owl takes him even further on his journey. The northern lights appear in the sky, and the boy floats with the colors and the stars. Then the raven returns to fly him back to bed just as dawn begins to break.

Hartman’s poetry is rhyming and gentle. She takes readers on a beautiful journey through her native state, allowing them to see the incredible animals and natural features that make Alaska so special. Throughout, the child is enjoying his flight and in control of his journey through the sky. There is a sense of thrill and joy as he makes his way.

The art in the book is exceptional. Done in linocuts, the illustrations are dramatic and very effective. With the darkest of black backgrounds, the stars, animals and northern lights shine like lanterns on the page. The images have a feel of mythology and honor nature.

A unique look at Alaskan wildlife and nature. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

3 All-Natural Nonfiction Books

Flying Deep by Michelle Cusolito

Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVIN by Michelle Cusolito, illustrated by Nicole Wong (9781580898119)

Alvin is a deep-sea submersible that seats just three people. In this picture book, readers take a journey with Alvin’s crew down into the sea to collect specimens, survey the site and look for life. Light dims and temperatures drop as Alvin descends. At nearly two miles down, they reach the seafloor. There are small crabs, glassy rocks and vent chimneys. Pompeii worms sway in the current and clams nestle in the rocks. There are other surprises too! Soon the specimens are stored and it’s time to slowly ascend to the surface once more.

There is a gorgeous natural drama to this nonfiction picture book that simply shows what scientists encounter as they explore the depths of the sea. Refreshingly, there is no artificial accidents or incidents used, just the depth itself and the sights to be seen. The book contains information about Alvin, a glossary of terms and a list of organisms with information on each. The illustrations are dramatic and use the play of darkness, beams of light and the different light at various depths very effectively.

Immensely readable, this would make a grand nonfiction addition to a story time. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Fur, Feather, Fin All of Us Are Kin by Diane Lang

Fur, Feather, Fin – All of Us Are Kin by Diane Lang, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis (9781481447096)

Exploring the classes of animals, this nonfiction picture book is written in rhyming text. The book looks at mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, arthropods, fish, water dwellers, and detritivores. Each class of animal is explained, including their unique attributes and how they are similar to other animals as well. The focus is on the web of creatures around the world, celebrating the varied nature of life.

The book is filled with facts, including a section at the back that offers even deeper information on each class of animal. Far more than just basic types of animals are explored here and young readers will learn new terms for animals like worms, crabs and insects. This very readable book is accompanied by illustrations that show how different these creatures are, from those under the sea to creatures who mature through various stages to those that fly.

An approachable book that offers lots of information in a very flexible and light way. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)

One Day a Dot by Ian Lendler

One Day a Dot by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb (9781626722446)

This book is a dynamic mix of graphic novel, nonfiction and picture book. It’s the story of the Big Bang and how earth came to be and how life started here. From the initial explosion, the book quickly moves to life on earth, using comic panels to great effect to show various lifeform stages. Dinosaurs emerge and life flourishes until the meteor strike. Still, some life survives and mammals and evolution lead to humans. The book has many answers but still ends with the ultimate question of where that first dot came from.

A great look at the science of the Big Bang and evolution for small children, this is a cleverly designed book. The book remains firmly nonfiction, nicely describing what is happening in short texts. The book also offers a timeline at the end that shows the Big Bang through current day. The illustrations have a gentle whimsy to them that makes the book inviting. A bright color palette of yellows, greens and oranges adds to the dynamic subject. A winner of a read. Appropriate for ages 4-8. (Reviewed from ARC provided by First Second.)