Posted in Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Books About Nature to Brighten Your Spring

It’s time for a roundup! This time, we’ve got nature books to enjoy now that the Spring weather finally looks like it’s going to stick around. Get comfortable by your favorite tree, or sit in the warmth of the sun, and enjoy some of these Spring-y books.

Be Thankful for Trees : A tribute to the many & surprising ways trees relate to our lives, by Harriet Ziefert/Illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781636550206

Ages 4-8

This is a fantastic way to introduce younger readers to all the great ways people and animals depend on trees! A rhyming tale expounds on the seven big things trees provide: food; comfort; music; art; recreation; home, and life. Colorful illustrations shows trees in nature, and how they’re used in day-to-day life, from providing a forest full of animals with food, to a kitchen table seating a family for dinner; from a child playing a piano, to a bird feeding her babies high up on a branch. Each area opens with a repetitive question and answer: “Would life be satisfying/good/possible without trees? It would not!” During a read-aloud, it’s the perfect opportunity for interaction; invite your littles to tell you what they think. The verse reminds also readers that trees are essential to life on earth, and the man-made disasters that threaten them, like deforestation and forest fire; Ziefert encourages readers to “explore a cool forest with its pine-scented breeze” and to “remember forever, BE THANKFUL FOR TREES!”. Playful, cheery color illustrations add to the fun verse, and golden leaves pop from the blue endpapers, really making this a wonderful book for early childhood natural science readalouds.

Author Harriet Ziefert has written hundreds of children’s books. You can see more of illustrator Brian Fitzgerald’s work at his website.

Visit Red Comet’s book detail page for a free, downloadable Teachers Guide. TeachersPayTeachers has a wealth of free learning activities about trees. I really like the idea of adopting a “class tree” and journaling observations over the course of a school year, as Robynn Drerup’s class has. Amanda Whitaker also has a fun tree journal for kids. Our Time to Learn’s Tree Animals Coloring sheet is great to hand out after a readaloud.

Firsts and Lasts: The Changing Seasons, by Leda Schubert/Illustrated by Clover Robin, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211023

Ages 4-8

Every season comes with its own unique firsts and lasts. Leda Schubert and illustrator Clover Robin beautifully capture these moments in Firsts and Lasts: The Changing Season. Organized by season, the book offers gentle observation designed to provoke memories and warm feelings as we follow family through the year: Spring is the last time they (and we) wear snowsuits and build snow forts, but it’s the first time they see new grass, and wash the car; in the Fall, it’s the last time for things like going to the ice cream stand, but it’s the first time for seeing wooly caterpillars and jumping in leaves. Cut paper illustrations add a playful whimsy and the colors capture the feelings for each season; crisp winter skies and warm autumn leaves; bright spring flowers and lush summer landscapes. It’s a wonderful illustration of the transition nature – and people! – go through from season to season, and offers opportunities for kids to share their observations on seasonal change.

First and Lasts has a starred review from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

KB3Teach has a fun Seasons Cut and Paste activity on TeachersPayTeachers that nicely extends this book. Teresa Tretbar’s Amazing Literacy has seasonal coloring pages and posters for you to hand out, too.

Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits, by Olaf Hajek (Illustrations) and Annette Roeder (Text), (Apr. 2022, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791375069

Ages 6-9

Olaf Hajek has made beautiful art from vegetables and flowers; now, fruit gets the Hajek treatment in Olaf Hajek’s Fantastic Fruits. Annette Roeder returns to provide fun and interesting profiles on 25 fruits, like the pomegranate, also known as the “apple of discord” that was created, according to Greek myth, by an angry goddess of strife and discord; the banana, whose curve is slowly being bred out of the fruit in order to make for easier stacking; and the fig, whose juice can help against insect bites. Factual information on each fruit’s countries of origin, and other names and varieties of each fruit run across the bottom of each profile, and – as we’ve come to expect from Hajek – colorful, stunning portraits are the star of the show in this oversized volume. A fox and a woman collect orange juice from giant fruits hanging from a tree in one painting; another woman serves cherry cake to a young boy and a bird as cherries hang from a tree and provide a headdress; a porcupine carries a gigantic blackberry and raspberry on its back through a field. Hajek’s playfully surreal artwork is sure to catch eyes and make new fans as they pore through the pages of this gorgeous book. Great for art sections and 634 sections (fruits, naturally!).

Visit Olaf Hajek’s illustrator webpage for more of his work.

 

What’s Cooking in Flowerville? Recipes from Balconies, Rooftops, and Gardens, by Felicita Sala, (Apr. 2022, Prestel Junior), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791375182

Ages 6-10

Flowerville is a bustling, multicultural neighborhood where everyone loves to grow and share food! Beginning in April, the book takes readers through the year, month by month, with Flowerville citizens tending to their plants: in April, Maria chops down her asparagus spears; in July, Ramon tests the floating ability of a cucumber as his parent waters the plants. Each month features a new recipe, made with ingredients shown in the artwork. In July, we get creamy tzatziki sauce; in November, roasted beet dip. Warm and colorful artwork shows families and friends sharing food and friendship, and gardening tips and recipes make this a handy gardening guide for families and classes. Pair with Francine Sala’s What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street and Cynthia Cliff’s Pie for Breakfast for a worldwide trip for the palate.

Felicita Sala’s webpage has more of her illustration work, and a link to her food illustration is a must-see.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Natural world nonfiction for young learners: See to Learn: Forest

See to Learn: Forest, by Kate Moss Gamblin/Illustrated by, Karen Patkau, (March 2019, Groundwood Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781554988792

Ages 4-7

This first book in a new nonfiction picture book series encourages little learners to look at a location – in this case, a forest – and really see: see different footprints that travel the forest floor; the different leaves carpeting the ground; moss covering a stump. Forest encourages readers to think: is that moss older than your grandparents? What changes do seasons bring with them? What happens during the passage of day to night?

The quiet text promotes introspection, curiosity, and presence, and the interrelationships between nature – trees are referred to as our “cousins” – and our planet. Everything here exists for readers to observe and ponder, and Forest encourages them to think of nature, the world, and their place in it.

This is a great way to talk about the natural world and basic concepts with kids: talk about colors, talk about different functions, talk about different stages of life, whether you’re a human grandparent or a young caterpillar. We all age; we all exist; we all interact with the natural world. Let kids see themselves in nature, and they’ll respect it and care for it. Further reading provides additional resources for younger and middle grade readers. An author’s note explains the rationale and thinking points for the series.

I’m looking forward to more books in this series. See to Learn: Forest is a great addition to primary and elementary science collections and programming. This will fit nicely with Kate Messner’s nonfiction books, Over and Under the Snow, Over and Under the Pond, and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, for elementary readers; for primary readers, you can’t miss with Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s books, Green and Blue; and Denise Fleming’s In the Tall, Tall Grass, and In the Small, Small Pond.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Lion (Forge), Tigers, and Bears… Oh, My!

In a twist on the classic Wizard of Oz quote, I found myself with a tiger book, a bear book, but no lion book. Lion Forge came to the rescue with a hilarious (and animal-related) picture book! Enjoy!

This is a Taco!, by Andrew Cangelose/Illustrated by Josh Shipley, (May 2018, Lion Forge), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1941302729

Recommended for readers 4-8

Lion Forge Comics also puts out some really good kids’ books. This is a Taco! is a laugh-out-loud take on a nature book about squirrels that breaks the fourth wall. Taco is a squirrel who loves tacos. As the nonfiction narrative on squirrels progress, Taco is there to disabuse readers of any facts they may be picking up about squirrels. Squirrels eat tree bark? This is news to Taco, who really wants to know where his tacos are. Great climbers? Taco’s terrified! He lives in a bush! Taco has enough by the time a section on hawks – the greatest squirrel predator – shows up on the scene, and decides to change the story. Grabbing a red pen, Taco writes his own happy ending and imparts serious wisdom to readers: “if you want tacos in your story, then YOU make sure there are tacos in your story”.

Kids are going to love this hilarious book. Taco the Squirrel is right up there with Mo Willems’ Pigeon in terms of characters who take charge of their stories and bring the laughs. This makes for a great creative writing exercise with older kids; let them “rewrite” their own stories with weeded picture books or some photocopied pages. Show them Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett’s Battle Bunny for another example of a picture book taking on a life of its own. And for taco-loving readers, get those Dragons Love Tacos books on the display shelves. This book is way too much fun – get it into the hands of kids, ASAP! There’s a companion book, This is a Whoopsie, coming out in October.

 

The Tiptoeing Tiger, by Philippa Leathers, (Feb. 2018, Candlewick Press), $14.00, ISBN: 9780763688431

Recommended for readers 3-7

Everyone knows that tigers are sleek, silent, and totally terrifying. Except for Little Tiger. He can’t seem to get anyone in the forest to notice him, let alone be afraid of him! After his brother bets that he can’t scare any animal in the forest, Little Tiger sets off, determined to frighten someone. He tiptoes his way through the book, trying to scare boars, elephants, and monkeys, with no luck. Isn’t there anyone he can scare before the day is out?

This is a great book for the littles, who LOVE “scaring” people. I remember I couldn’t walk out of my bathroom without my little guy jumping and “boo!”-ing me starting around the age of 3. (He’s 5 now, and still tries it; these days, it’s usually with a Nerf sniper rifle.) The author speaks to a child’s desire to be seen as someone bigger, and the frustration at being ignored, or worse – laughed at – when they’re trying to be like the bigger folks. The repetition of Little Tiger’s tiptoeing up to his prey invites readers to be part of the story, whether they tiptoe with their toes or walk their fingers on a surface. Let them give their best ROAR! to see how they’d match up with Little Tiger.

The pencil and watercolor illustrations are adorable; very kid-friendly, and leave a lot of open space to show the size differences between Little Tiger and the rest of the animals. Green endpapers with fern leaf patterning bring readers into the story. The Tiptoeing Tiger is a fun story about being small, but determined. A fun additional book for animal lovers.

 

The Curious Cares of Bears, by Douglas Florian/Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez, (Aug. 2017, little bee books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0462-1

This rhyming story takes readers through the four seasons with a group of bears and how they spend their time. In the spring, they love to climb trees and steal honey from bees, play and chase each other; in the summer, there’s swimming and games, family reunions, and parties; in the fall, they play all day and sing by a campfire at night; and when winter arrives, it’s time to make their way to their den to hibernate, until the spring thaw comes, and they get ready to explore their world all over again.

This is a gentle, fun read about the seasons. The group of cuddly bears pass their time in similar ways to our own families, which makes for some fun questions to pose to readers, especially near different seasonal school breaks. The rhyming text has a nice, steady rhythm for readers and the soft art makes the bears look fuzzy and cuddly, like the best bear books do. Endpapers feature an extended family group of bears wandering around the forest, setting the tone for the story. Give this to your teddy bear loving readers, and booktalk with some easy reader season books, like those from Rookie Readers.

 

Great Polar Bear, by Carolyn Lesser, (Apr. 2018, Seagrass Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781633225022

Recommended for readers 5-8

I had to add an extra bear book here, because Great Polar Bear is just beautiful. A nonfiction book written in verse, Carolyn Lesser takes readers through a year in the life of a polar bear. Originally published in 1996 as The Great Crystal Bear (illustrated by William Noonan), this new edition features all-new collage artwork by Lesser; it gives beautiful texture and depth to the illustrations. The narrative brings facts to readers through rhythmic verse, rather than terse statements: the bear’s fur, for instance, “gathers sunlight, to heat your black skin and thick layer of fat”. We also learn about the endangered environment and problems caused by climate change. Back matter contains “Explorer’s Notes” and emphasizes conservation. This is a good additional text for nonfiction collections where bears are popular.

 

Africa Calling, Nighttime Falling, by Danny Adlerman/Illustrated by Kim Adlerman, (March 2018, Lee and Low Books), $9.95, ISBN: 9781620147955

Recommended for readers 3-7

For my Oh My! book, I’ve got the bedtime story, Africa Calling, Nighttime Falling; a mellow story about African animals in their habitats as the sun sets for the day. The rhyming text leads includes quiet accompanying phrases for each animal: “As moonlight cloaks the desert land, Viper slinks across the sand… swiftly sliding, vipers gliding”. I read them as whispered phrases, between stanzas, because it seems to really work with my Kindergartner. The artwork includes collage over paintings, with what looks like some photographic media mixed in. The twist at the end brings this full circle when readers see that it’s a little girl’s imagination, before bedtime, and that she’s surrounded by her jungle’s worth of stuffed animals. It’s a nice additional add where bedtime stories and animal books are popular, and a good one to test out with stuffed animal sleepover storytimes.