Posted in picture books

Two books about Trees for Earth Day

I’ve got two more books about trees for Earth Day today! Sit in the great outside with these books and take a nice, deep breath for Earth Day.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom, by Lita Judge, (March 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250237071

Ages 7-12

Verse comes together with nonfiction writing to tell the story of trees, and how they work together to create ecosystems that provide food and shelter to everything around them. Beautiful watercolor and pencil artwork provides visuals that will enchant readers with visions of ancient trees, baby animals, and wooded sanctuaries. Additional back matter includes more information about different types of trees and the dangers posed to our world’s forests.

Teachers Pay Teachers has a great Adopt a Tree lesson and journal, courtesy of Common Core Kelly; it would be a good activity to introduce to grade schoolers as a STEM/STEAM project.

The Wisdom of Trees has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

 

Zee Grows a Tree, by Elizabeth Rusch/Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763697549

Ages 5-8

A baby is born and her mother and father, who run a Christmas tree farm, set aside a Douglas fir seedling that emerges that same day, to be “Zee’s Tree”. Little Zee and her tree grow up together: they both grow bigger and stronger with love and care; when Zee starts preschool, the tree also starts life outside, being planted outside the nursery; Zee makes friends at school, and the tree enjoys company from the local birds. When the tree contracts a heat-related illness, Zee is there to nurse it back to health. Filled with interesting facts about Douglas fir trees, Zee Grows a Tree is a lovely combination of fact and fiction that will draw readers in and maybe encourage them to care for a plant of their own. Mixed media illustrations show peaceful landscapes and two friends growing together. The relationship between Zee and her tree is sweetly depicted. Back matter includes an index and a list for further reading.

Zee Grows a Tree has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Earth Day Reading: Trillions of Trees!

Trillions of Trees: A Counting and Planting Book, by Kurt Cyrus, (March 2021, Henry Holt), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250229076

Ages 3-6

A young girl makes a call to the local plant pavilion to order a trillium flower, but a hilarious game of telephone leads to the family being put down for an order of a trillion trees! When the first thousand show up, the family bands together to figure out where to put all of them: the yard, the town, the park, everywhere one can imagine, the family’s planting trees of all kinds. When the day is done, the weary family heads home to discover a truck in the driveway… with their next shipment of trees. An environmentally sound counting story with a fun twist, this rhyming tale will have readers giggling and trying to figure out where to put tree upon tree upon tree! It’s a great readalong with books like Kadir Nelson’s If You Plant a Seed. Colorful illustrations show trees of all types, including a giant Sequoia and an apple orchard. Fun family moments show them being overwhelmed by the trees tumbling off the truck, and digging multiple holes across their town. A back page provides fun facts about trees. This list from Brightly includes more books about planting trees, to add to a Hug a Tree display for Earth Day.

Trillions of Trees is a companion to Kurt Cyrus’s 2016 book, Billions of Bricks and has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Way of the Hive tells the story of Clan Apis

The Way of the Hive: A Honeybee’s Story, by Jay Hosler, (Apr. 2021, HarperAlley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780063007352

Ages 8-12

Nyuki is an inquisitive honeybee larva who has a lot of questions for Dvorah, an older bee who ends up being her mentor. Why does her cell have to be capped off? Why does she have to go through metamorphosis? Why are some of the bees getting ready to leave the hive? Can she go? Should she go? Is Dvorah going to go? Dvorah patiently answers Nyuki’s questions, and helps Nyuki develop into an independent member of her colony. The story follows the life journey of one honeybee and the members of her hive. Nyuki is childlike in her interactions, and never loses her sense of wonder and curiosity, making her a wonderful character. She struggles with anxiety about the unknown and adapts, always puzzling over the “inner voice” that spurs her on to adventure. The story is sweet, funny, and moved me to tears. Illustrations are realistic, but Jay Hosler manages to make these realistic depictions of bees simply adorable; readers will want to cherish them and care for them. The science is solid, but never, ever feels like a lecture or a textbook. It’s simply a great story. An absolute must for your graphic novel collections, and perfect for Science Comics readers. Back matter includes even more information about bees.

Did you know World Bee Day is May 20th this year? Visit the Bee Culture website for some resources on bees and celebrating them on their special day. The National Parks Service has a great middle school curriculum for Bee Week available. Author Jay Hosler’s website is a treasure trove of information on using comic books in the classroom (yes!!) and links to more science comics.

The Way of the Hive has a starred review from Kirkus. It was originally published under the title, Clan Apis, in 1998.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Wolf learns a valuable lesson in Sheepish

Sheepish (Wolf Under Cover), by Helen Yoon, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207323

Ages 3-7

Wolf’s got plans: dress like a sheep, infiltrate the flock, eat all the sheep things. As he follows his own rules, though, he discovers something he didn’t expect – becoming a beloved part of the flock! As Wolf spends day in and day out with the sheep, alongside them, playing with them, doing aerobics with them, and reading stories to them, he realizes the sheep aren’t quite so temptingly tasty anymore. He can’t even imagine trying to make a meal out of one of his friends! Separating himself from temptation, he leaves the community only to learn that just maybe, he wasn’t as crafty as he thought he was and that good friends always show up for one another. Mixed media illustrations tell the real story, and readers will chuckle to see the wily wolf surrounded by sheep who clearly know what’s going on, and will enjoy seeing how each side develops a love for the other, as they spend time together. The lighting in these illustrations is just gorgeous; light from behind Wolf and the sheep on a line create orange-tinged shadows that telegraph Wolf’s long ears and fluffy tail; a dejected Wolf heads home as sunset and a single evening star light up the sky. The light sources are part of the story and bring a warmth to the pages that I just adored with every turn of the page. A sweetly funny, heartwarming book that kids will turn to again and again.

Sheepish has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Stomp and count with One-Osaurus, ,Two-Osaurus!

One-osaurus, Two-osaurus, by Kim Norman/Illustrated by Pierre Collet-Derby, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536201796

Ages 3-7

You know when you discover a book that makes you want to jump up and start a storytime? One-osaurus, Two-osaurus falls firmly into that group. A group of dinosaurs are playing in a child’s room when they decide to start a counting game: “One-osaurus, two-osaurus, three-osaurus, four…” It’s a mash-up of hide-and-seek and counting, as the dinos hide behind large, bold numbers; they tuck tails and necks, waiting in anticipation for number 10, which sounds really, really big. What will it be? You have to read and find out! The addictively playful rhyme scheme will make you want to jump and dance as you read. Hand out number coloring sheets (Mr. Printables and First Palette have good ones) and invite your storytime Kiddos to hide behind them as you read along, and make sure to stomp and roar! Digital illustrations are lively, silly, colorful and incredibly fun, with cartoony, bright dinosaurs twisting themselves into hilarious shapes to pose by and hide behind numbers. Bold, black, oversized numbers make it easy to count along, even for the kiddos sitting in the back of the group! Display and read with other great dino books, including 1, 2, 3 Do the Dinosaur by Michelle Robinson & Rosalind Bearshaw, and some get up and dance stories, like Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson’s Spunky Little Monkey and Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance.

One-osaurus, Two-osaurus has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blue Floats Away explains the water cycle and global warming

Blue Floats Away, by Travis Jonker/Illustrated by Grant Snider, (March 2021, Abrams Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781419744235

Ages 4-8

Blue is a little iceberg who floats along with his parents in the North Pole until one day, when he cracks and floats away, surprising the three of them! He’s carried along by the water, noticing new and beautiful things and meeting new friends, when he transforms again, and again! Blue’s gentle little adventure explains the water cycle to young learners in a way that will interest and delight them, as Blue transforms from an iceberg, to a cloud, to a snowflake, as he experiences new and exciting things on his journey. Back matter includes more information about the water cycle and a note about climate change and its affect on polar ice. Blue Floats Away is so  much more than a cute STEM story to read to your Kiddos, though: it’s about growing up, having new experiences, and always having an eye toward home. Blue and his parents have subtly illustrated, gentle faces that I had to read a second time to really discover; Blue’s expressions change throughout his story; at first content, then frightened, unsure, even excited, as his story moves along. Mixed media illustrations remind me of Lois Ehlert in the best of ways. Deep blues dominate the story, with bright colors popping out to keep interest. Spare text makes this a great readaloud choice that you can follow with a torn paper collage craft, inviting kids to create their own Blue story. KidZone has water cycle activity pages for coloring that you can have handy for a storytime or grab and go craft, as does Clever Learner.

Blue Floats Away has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History

Celebrate Latinitas!

Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers, by Juliet Menéndez, (Feb. 2021, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250234629

Ages 8-12

This collection of biographies shines a light on 40 Latinx women from Latin America and the U.S. who have made outstanding contributions across the board: activists and advocates, educators, musicians, scientists, artists, politicians, and so many more. Some names will be familiar: Pura Belpré, Frida Kahlo, and Sonia Sotomayor are all here, as are names that will be new to many readers, like Rosa Peña de González, who built schools for girls in Paraguay; playwright and congresswoman Gumercinda Páez, who helped draft Panama’s new constitution in 1941, with an eye to Afro-Latinx rights and women’s rights; and Wanda Díaz-Merced, a blind astrophysicist who turned data points into rhythm and sound in order to create a “symphony of sounds for the stars, planets, and asteroids”. The women are outstanding, and this collection of stories should be the tip of the iceberg for more research. Hand-painted illustrations have beautiful folk art feel. Endpapers feature additional artwork with flowers representing each of the countries represented in the book. An inspiring collection with comprehensive back matter that includes brief looks at an additional 10 Latin women and full sources.

Latinitas has a starred review from Kirkus. Get a free activity kit and read a Q&A with author-illustrator Juliet Menéndez. Visit Juliet Menéndez’s author website to see more of her gorgeous artwork and more information about her books.

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour and Author Interview: Perdu, by Richard Jones

Back in February, I wrote about Richard Jones’s latest book, Perdu – his first as an author and illustrator! This book about a little dog who really needs a friend melted my heart, so I’m happy to talk about it again for the book’s blog tour. Peachtree Publishers was wonderful and secured me an interview with author Richard Jones, too!

Perdu, by Richard Jones, (Apr. 2021, Peachtree Publishing),
$17.99, ISBN: 9781682632482
Ages 4-8

Poor Perdu finds himself lost and all alone on a dark rainy night, with nothing of his own except for an old red scarf. Hefollows a tumbling leaf through the countryside to the city, from night to day,in hopes of finding a place of his own. But in the busy city, people rush and shoo Perdu away.Will he ever find a comforting place to rest his aching legs or fill his grumbling tummy?

Your most recent book, Perdu, is also your first as an author! Is this the first story you were moved to write?

Richard Jones: Perdu’s story is very dear to me, but it’s not quite the first! The publishing world is a roly-poly business and projects get moved forward and back all the time. There are one or two other tales that came before this one that are waiting patiently for their time! However, Perdu is the first story of mine to be published and I’ll always think of it fondly.

Perdu’s little red scarf becomes such an emotional part of his story. What inspired it?

Richard Jones: Perdu is a dog with a mysterious past and I wanted him to carry a little piece of it with him as he searches for a place to call home. His scarf is his only possession, so when he loses it after a mix up in a café, he feels entirely lost. When the little girl kindly ties it back on, she’s not only returning to him his possession but also giving him back his self-worth and confidence.

You use color to communicate so many things in your books. I loved that the red of Perdu’s scarf matches the little girl’s knit hat. Can you talk about how you decide what colors to use when you’re working?

Richard Jones: I have pages and pages of sketches for the little girl’s coat and hat, I think I counted over 25 variations! In the end, red seemed the perfect color to use as it contrasted well with his night-black coat and made her stand out in the crowded city streets. I try and have a new palette of colors for each book, picked from photos and paintings I’ve spotted during the early stages of a project. I sometimes wonder if I’m not just a little bit color blind!

Was writing and illustrating Perdu more challenging than illustrating other authors’ work?

Richard Jones: I love reading other people’s stories and imagining how I might illustrate them. It’s one of the best parts of the job! However, working on Perdu felt a little more organic than other projects, as the two strands—the pictures and the words—developed together. As the pages evolved over time, they suggested little changes or shifts in the story that required a re-write or two. That’s something I wouldn’t always expect of another author!

 

Thank you so much!

Visit other stops on the Richard Jones/Perdu blog tour!

Additional resources:

Website with book summary and author bio: https://peachtree-online.com/portfolio-items/perdu/

Author Q&A: https://peachtree-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/QA_JonesR.pdf

Activity Sheets: https://peachtree-online.com/pdfs/Activity_Event/PerduActivitySheets.pdf

Book excerpt: https://peachtree-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/PerduExcerpt.pdf

How to Draw Perdu video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeNUtKJtczA

Richard Jones background about the creation of Perdu: https://www.paintedmouse.com/perdu-blog

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Fox + Chick are sweet and funny buddies

Fox + Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories, by Sergio Ruzzier, (May 2021, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797208848

Ages 5-8

Fox and Chick are friends who love each other. Fox loves Chick with all Chick’s little quirks, and Chick loves Fox, who seems a little more down to earth. This latest book is the second book of their adventures, and it’s already out in hardcover. Chronicle was kind enough to send me a softcover copy, which will be out in May. Consisting of three stories – The Quiet Boat Ride, Chocolate Cake, and The Sunrise – this graphic novel is perfect for emerging readers who are ready to stretch from picture books and easy readers, but either not quite ready for chapter books or just starting them. In “The Quiet Boat Ride”, Fox is all set to spend a quiet afternoon rowing his boat when Chick arrives and injects a wild series of scenarios into the day. In “Chocolate Cake”, Chick agonizes over the gift of a chocolate cake and whether or not to eat all of it and risk a sick belly. “The Sunrise” sees Fox trying to get Chick to hurry up and come downstairs so they can see the sunrise. Parents and caregivers will love the stories, too; Chick will remind every single adult reader of the Kiddos in their lives, from trying to get a meandering preschooler to get their shoes on so you can get out of the door on time, to explaining that having access to a box of cookies (or a chocolate cake) doesn’t mean one has to EAT all of the cookies (or cake) in one sitting. Soft colors, fun dialogue, and an overall feeling of friendship makes this an excellent choice to give to kids who’ve loved Elephant and Piggie, Frog and Toad, and who are heading toward Skunk and Badger.

Sergio Ruzzier is a Sendak Fellow who has written and illustrated many critically acclaimed children’s books. The Fox + Chick books have starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories is included on many “Best Of” lists, including NPR Best Books of the Year, New York Times Notable Children’s Book,School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and The Horn Book Magazine Fanfare Best Book of the Year. Visit Sergio Ruzzier’s author website for more information about his books.
Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Starting off Earth Day right!

Earth Day is coming at the end of the month, so expect to see lots of books about our big blue dot here over the next few weeks. Today, I’m starting with the earth – the ground itself – and what it gives us.

A World of Plants by Martin Jenkins & James Brown, (March 2021, Candlewick Studio), $25, ISBN: 9781536215328

Ages 7-10

The latest in the “A World of…” series from Martin Jenkins and James Brown is all about plants. Organized into 30 areas and fully illustrated with 2-color artwork and infographics, this oversized book covers plants from seed to bloom; how they spread, who eats them and who they eat; plants that thrive in different habitats, and more. A Plants in Peril section covers conservation and environmental awareness, with an eye to different plants that are threatened, overharvested, and facing habitat destruction.  A section on symbolic plants discusses the link between religion and nature. Fun facts abound: learn your climbing plants, for instance, by identifying which are twiners, which are tendrils and leaf twiners, which are clingers, and which are hook climbers. How do plants defend themselves? A World of Plants goes beyond thorns and looks at the dumb cane, a plant that accumulates needlelike crystals that can pierce an animal’s mouth, or the passionflower, whose leaves mimic dots that look like butterfly eggs, so butterfiles will pass them by. A World of Plants is a nice addition to a beautiful nonfiction series. Sample a chapter at publisher Candlewick’s website.

 

Fungarium (Welcome to the Museum), curated by Katie Scott and Ester Gaya, (April 2021, Big Picture Press), $35, ISBN: 9781536217094

Ages 8-12

Another good nonfiction series, Welcome to the Museum, introduces its newest wing, Fungarium. It’s all about the mushrooms here! Organized into four galleries, readers will get the full scoop on Fungal Biology, Fungal Diversity, Fungal Interactions, and Fungi and Humans. Fungi get a pretty bad rap (myself included: not a mushroom fan), but this book seeks to clear up a lot of issues people have: without fungi, there would be no coffee, tea, or chocolate, which is reason enough for me to fully support my local mycologist. Beautiful scientific illustration brings the diversity of these organisms to life on the page, and detailed keys to each plate provide helpful information at a glance. Entries on each section in the galleries give readers plenty of information to get them started on learning about fungi, from what’s growing on that tree we pass on the way to school every morning to what’s in cans at the grocery store. Worried about what not to eat? The section on Poisonous Fungi makes sure you know how to identify a Death cap, False morel, or Destroying angel. If that’s too much of a turn-off, head over to Wonder Drugs and learn how fungi are also the source of many modern medicines, including that wonder drug, penicillin. Fully indexed, with a list of further resources and brief bios on the curators behind the book, Fungarium is a nice addition to the Welcome to the Museum series. Publisher Candlewick has a sample chapter available for viewing.

Fungarium has starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus.