3 New Picture Books about Nature

All the Animals Where I Live by Philip C. Stead

All the Animals Where I Live by Philip C. Stead (9781626726567)

Stead has created another picture book that invites you into his everyday world. Filled with stories of a bear chased off my an elderly woman and a teddy bear that Stead has had his entire life, stories of maple-syrup scented blankets, a dog named Wednesday, loud cranes, a falling turtle, and much more.

There is a beautiful simplicity to the book, one that slows the reader down to look out their own windows and think about the animals that live near them. The illustrations are simple too, washed with colors that suit the season and time of day, they move from yellows to blues to the oranges of autumn and to the ethereal greens of winter. A quiet and marvelous picture book. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw_ms Gyetxw

The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett David Huson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (9781553791395)

This picture book combines biology with a storytelling feel to create a very special tale. It is the story of sockeye salmon. From their time as a small fry just losing their yolk sac through to adult sockeye returning to their birthplace to spawn before they die. The picture book is also about the Gitxsan people of the Pacific Northwest and their connection to the river and the salmon. The book looks at the various stages of the live of the salmon and offers scientific information about them, the bears, environmental impact of humans, and much more.

The book is deep and lovely, the tone unique and lush. Seasons are captured in words but also in the senses. The scent of pine and cedar, the replacing of old snow with new snow, the run of water in the river, all fill this book with elements of the Pacific Northwest. The illustrations are large and mostly focused on the river and the salmon. Even the smoke from a fire flows across the dark sky like the river flows on other pages. A picture book written and illustrated to honor the Xsan river and the animals and humans who depend on it. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre

Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre (9780062697349)

Sayre provides a love letter to the Earth in this picture book. With a reverential tone and gentle rhymes, the book swoops the reader up on a photographic journey around Earth with all of its wonders. Thank yous go out for mountains, water, air and trees. Then the book moves to smaller things like patterns, sounds, seasons and plants. The book once again widens to look at the beauty of the sky and the amazement of lifetimes.

Embracing and filled with just the right tone of enthusiasm, this picture book is celebratory and filled with big thoughts that children will find mesmerizing. The photographic illustrations are varied and filled with color, mists, water, stone and more. A diverse look at life on earth and our privilege to be here. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 New and Wild Picture Books

Animal Babies by Charles Fuge

Animal Babies by Charles Fuge (9781633225480)

Told in rollicking rhyme, this picture book is filled with charm. Each of the illustrations has bright-eyed baby animals who are captivating as the pages turn. There are ducklings all in a line following a baby chimpanzee. A baby elephant holds onto the little horn of a baby rhino. The story moves through different habitats, visiting arctic and desert climates. Through it all, the rhyming keeps the story focused and tight and the illustrations add real appeal. The young animals are  often shown with parents caring for them, like the joey in his mother’s pouch and sloths and bats hanging upside down with their respective parent. The book ends with a heap of snoozing animals, so this would also make a great bedtime story. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by MoonDance Press and Edelweiss.)

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel (9781452150147)

The author of the Caldecott Honor Book, They All Saw a Cat, returns with a new book about animals.The book moves from black-and-white animals to colorful ones, each animal at the end of one page skillfully leading into the next, visually tying the categories together. The book is a visual treat; the animals are large and graphic. The text reads like poetry, easing from one concept to the next, the animals demonstrating that concept. Towards the end of the book, the experience is more fluid and friendly, the animals similar in certain aspects though the text stops pointing it out. This is a great book to invite discussion and more exploration of how the animals are similar and different.

The text is simple and the art has goggle-eyed animals that are approachable and that celebrate the animals they depict. The book ends by explaining that many of the animals shown are endangered and then offers a list of the animals so that children can explore more about them. Inviting, fresh and friendly, this picture book is exceptional thanks to its art. Appropriate for ages 2-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.)

The Truth about Hippos by Maxwell Eaton III

The Truth about Hippos by Maxwell Eaton III (9781626726673)

Eaton turns his signature humor on hippopotamuses this time. He shares information on the two kinds of hippos: common and pygmy. Little signs along the way add more facts and much of the humor is in the commentary made in speech bubbles by the various characters. Eaton adds a little drama with a lost baby pygmy hippo looking for his mother. The illustrations are bold and bright, inviting readers in to explore the world of hippos and stay thanks to the humor and light tone of the book. Filled with information that is easily understood by children, such as using a book as the example of how wide a hippo’s mouth opens compared to a human’s. The book is intelligent and wittily crafted, making it just the right book for young children to learn about an animal. Appropriate for ages 5-8. (Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

Hidden City by Sarah Grace Tuttle

Hidden City by Sarah Grace Tuttle

Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife by Sarah Grace Tuttle, illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford (9780802854599)

In a series of poems, this book celebrates nature in an urban setting, showing how wildlife continues to thrive. Mice and dandelions start the book, then it reaches farther to moss, mushrooms, and several kinds of birds. Slugs, ants and worms too have poems dedicated to them. The book moves gracefully through the seasons as well, moving to autumn and into winter as the book concludes. With even the smallest creatures celebrated here, there is a poem for everyone whether you like ladybugs, raccoons or owls.

Tuttle’s poems are short and very accessible. They offer brief glimpses into the lives of animals, birds, insects and plants thriving in the city setting. There is a quiet to most of the poems that shows how things continue to grow and live in parks, alleys and outside of the bustle of the city for the most part. The illustrations are bright and poetic too, capturing the green spaces of the city, the movement and each of the animals featured in the poetry.

A winning collection for children from both city and country. Appropriate for ages 6-8. (Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans.)

The Skydiving Beavers by Susan Wood

The Skydiving Beavers by Susan Wood

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale by Susan Wood, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (9781585369942, Amazon)

When people start to move into McCall, Idaho in the 1940’s, they encroach on the beavers who were already living there. Soon the new human homes and roads are flooded as the beavers build their dams. In this sort of struggle, it is always the humans who win. But a unique conservation effort is undertaken by the Idaho Fish and Game Department to move the beavers to a safer and more sheltered habitat. The problem is how to get the beavers into the pristine wilderness where there are no airports and no roads. Perhaps the solution can come from World War II parachutes and one brave beaver named Geronimo.

Wood takes care with the amount of prose she has on each page, offering just the right amount of detail and action for young readers. Her prose is also playful, as she describes both the beauty of Idaho and the damage that the beavers can do. The tone serves the book well with the whimsical use of parachutes and boxes that can open when they hit the ground. The story is a fascinating one and the book makes sure to explain that this sort of solution would not be done today where it is expected that humans and nature find a way to co-exist.

The illustrations are a mix of workshop images and desks where plans are made and then the Idaho landscape and horizons. The images settle the book deeply into the wilderness and the setting in which the book takes place. There is a sense of isolation and beauty in the images where the beavers land in their new habitat.

Fascinating and fun, this nonfiction picture book tells the story of a unique solution to a wildlife issue. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Sleeping Bear Press.

On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen

On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen

On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall (9781943645220, Amazon)

This is the second book in the children’s picture book series by the award-winning duo of Yolen and Marstall that is done in conjunction with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. A boy and his dog take a walk in a new setting. This time it is near a pond where everything is very quiet but soon the ducks arrive and break the silence with their splashing and quacking. The other creatures at the pond are startled and move away, including frogs, turtles, a heron and the tadpoles. Soon the pond goes back to being still and quiet and the other animals come out of hiding.

Yolen’s poetry is particularly effective. She pays such attention to small details not only in the animals as they react to the ducks but to the reflections in the water as they go from mirror-like to shattered to reflective once again. The water itself reacts similarly to the animals and the sounds, it’s a lovely connection that is clearly done and yet poetically presented allowing a sense of discovery for the reader.

Marstall’s illustrations are detailed and wonderfully natural. They embrace the greens of the surrounding land and also the colors of the animals themselves and the water. He uses plenty of detail on the animals themselves, showing them up close to the reader so that one can almost smell the pond water on the pages.

A grand look at a small pond and its vibrations throughout a boy’s day and life. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz

boy and a jaguar

A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by CaTia Chien

This is a stellar autobiographical picture book written by and about a wildlife conservationist.  Alan was a boy who could not speak clearly.  He battled stuttering all of the time except when he talked with animals.  When he visited the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo, he could whisper fluently into the ears of the cats.  He also spent a lot of time with his pets at home, speaking to them and telling them that if he ever found his own voice, he would serve as their voice since they had none and would keep them from harm.  Alan became the first person to study jaguars.  In Belize he felt at home in the jungle.  He worked to protect the jaguars and eventually had to speak for them in front of the President of Belize, hoping to save their habitat from destruction.  But can he speak clearly in the short 15 minutes he’s been given?

This book is made all the more compelling by the fact that it is true.  It gives readers a glimpse into the world of a child struggling with a disability, one that mars every verbal interaction he has.  And thanks to his ability with animals, readers quickly see beyond the stutter to the boy himself and to the gifts that he has to offer.  Even better, once Alan becomes an adult, readers get to see a man who is taking advantage of his uniqueness to make a difference in the world and for the animals he cares for so much.

Chien’s art is rich and varied.  She moves from backgrounds of wine red to brilliant yellow to the deep greens of the Belize jungles.  She shows an isolated boy, alone that contrasts beautifully with the man working happily alone in the jungle – so similar and yet so very different.

An extraordinary autobiography, this book shows readers not to judge anyone by how they speak but rather by what they do.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Snow School by Sandra Markle

snow school

Snow School by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Alan Marks

High in the mountains of Pakistan, two week-old snow leopard cubs snooze in a den waiting for their mother to return.  It’s May and the pair are only a week old.  When the male cub goes outside, he is attacked by a golden eagle and only saved by his mother rescuing him.  As the cubs grow, the practice pouncing one another and then start to eat directly from the game their mother kills.  Their mother teaches them skills they must have to survive in the harsh climate.  They learn to mark their territory, to silently hunt, to be quick, to guard their food, to find shelter when snow comes, and when to retreat.  It is a story of how small cubs grow into strong hunters and how these great and beautiful cats manage to survive in their mountainous and cold habitat.

Markle is the author of over 200 books for children.  In this one she takes on one of the most elusive creatures on earth and shows the strong family bonds and the huge amount of learning these young cats must accomplish to live.  She writes her nonfiction in verse, making it more easily read.  Nicely, as the mother is teaching her cubs, Markle makes sure readers understand the lesson by repeating it neatly at the end of the stanza. 

Marks’ illustrations capture the snow leopards and their beauty and grace.  There are moments of such daring leaps and heart pounding danger that Marks captures with flawless accuracy.  His use of soft watercolors adds to the mystique of these cats and also captures the speed and motion as they hunt. 

Beautiful illustrations and strong text result in a book that will teach children much about the snow leopards and their lives.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.