Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Explore our natural world with Wilderness: Earth’s Amazing Habitats

Wilderness: Earth’s Amazing Habitats, by Mia Cassany/Illustrated by Marcos Navarro, (Apr. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791373720

Ages 6-12

There are incredible wildernesses all over the world. Wilderness: Earth’s Amazing Habitats is an introduction to 16 rare plant and animal habitats across the world, from the Amazon Rainforest in South America to the Tropical Rainforest of New Guinea. It’s also a call to action, reminding readers that these wildernesses require protection to keep them safe; Mia Cassany cites deforestation and human intervention as having a disastrous impact on the habitats and the species that live within. So let’s take a look at, as author Mia Cassany says, “the most stunning nature show on earth”!

Beautifully illustrated endpapers bring you into the book with large, colorful tropical leaves – and eyes peeking out of the darkness – drawing you into the wildnerness from the beginning. An opening spread contains an author note on the importance of conservation and preservation, and a world map includes illustrated points where habitat is located. Two-page spreads feature stunning, full-bleed illustrations of every habitats; a brief description gives readers an idea of location and species inhabiting each spot, but it’s the art that’s front-and-center here. Bright, colorful, and lush, we see lowland gorillas peering out of the brush in Kahuzi-Biéga National Park in the Congo; a colorful, day-glo spread starring a panda, wild golden monkeys, and golden pheasants in China’s Qinling Mountains, and a stunning gecko camouflaged against leaves in the tropical rainforest in Madagascar. Back matter provides animal names, locates them on the page (they can be hard to spot!), and a brief, informative paragraph on each.

This is a beautiful coffee table book, and a nice addition to your natural history collections. It’s not a standalone book, but a gorgeous companion book to any unit on habitats and nature studies.


Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Ahoy! Great Ports of the World takes you on a tour

Great Ports of the World From New York to Hong Kong, by Mia Cassany/Illustrated by Victor Medina, (Oct. 2018, Prestel Publishing), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791373553

Ages 5-11

Take a look at some of the world’s ports and explore different cultures! Great Ports of the World takes readers on a tour of some of the world’s most incredible seaports: Hamburg, over 800 years old; Hong Kong, where a container is being loaded or unloaded every single second; New York, with the Statue of Liberty welcoming ships in New York Harbor. There are 15 featured ports here; from New York, through Europe, Asia, and the Congo. Beautifully illustrated by Victor Medina, each spread offers a boldly illustrated, brightly colored port of call, with loads of little details that will keep readers entertained. The art is charming and fun, with a great vintage travel poster feel; it brings Mia Cassany’s brief, informative text to life, illustrating key points of cultural and industrial history for each site. You’ll see a cross-section of a cruise ship that includes a zoo and a discotheque in Barcelona, a mummy playing peek-a-boo in Egypt, and cats hanging out on the rooftops of London.

This is a fun book to have in your nonfiction collections, and an entertaining way to introduce port cities and the history of industry to young readers.

Posted in picture books

Seek and Find Bucketloads of Friends

Bucketloads of Friends: A Look and Find Book, by Mia Cassany/Illustrated by Miguel Bustos, Translated by Paul Kelly, (Oct. 2018, Prestel), $14.95, ISBN: 9783791373577

Ages 4-8

The seek and find panels in this book is connected by the story of Lucas, a young man who wakes up one morning and decides he needs a best friend to fill a void in his life. He heads to several different locations, including a beach, a rock concert, an amusement park, an airport, and a birthday party, all in search of a new friend. He encounters all sorts of different people, but will he find a new best friend?

Originally published in Spanish, this seek and find is loaded with some fun images, including some recurring characters that sharp-eyed readers will catch. A panel at the end gives readers a little information about these folks, too, which adds a bit of fun. You’ll find a bald man with a handlebar mustache who wanders through the spreads sporting a Speedo, an alligator in business attire, and a seemingly hapless Lucas, searching for a new friend in the middle of each crowd. A brief, descriptive paragraph sets the stage for each spread, and a couple of question prompts give readers some places to start their search, but really, this book contains countless details to be discovered by imaginative readers. There are tips for further seek and find games in back, and changing 2-color spreads give readers a chance to point out subtle changes like new colors, clothing designs (strips versus solids or polka dots), and shapes.

A little wacky, a lot of fun, Bucketloads of Friends is good for your I Spy and Where’s Waldo fans.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Grab your passport! These picture books will take your imagination on an adventure!

An Atlas of Imaginary Places, by Mia Cassany/Illustrated by Ana de Lima, (March 2018, Prestel), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791373478

Recommended for readers 5-10

How do you not love a book that came together over coffee and carrot cake? An Atlas of Imaginary Places came together when author Mia Cassany and Ana de Lima did just that; talking about the places they pictured in their minds and dreams, they came up with “colors and languages for an atlas that would never exist… Or would it?” Bursting with color, islands, and mountains; with animals that change their coats every time someone sneezes, and volcanoes that spit lava made of bubble gum, the places in this atlas provide something new and exciting with each turn of the page.

This is the kind of book that begs for multiple readings. Every spread offers a new place with new wonders, and you’ll notice something new each time. There are cities, oceans, jungles, and islands waiting to be explored by readers who can get lost in their pages. Send your little ones to bed with a page or two, setting the stage for wonderful dreams, or ask your readers to add to the landscape and come up with their own exciting places and inhabitants. This is the kind of book that makes readers love reading; this is the kind of storytelling that sets the stage for creativity. Give this to your explorers and dreamers, and display with books like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Adele in Sandland, or Wallpaper. An Atlas of Imaginary Places was originally released in Spain in 2016.


The Dangerous Journey, by Tove Jansson, (Apr. 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770463202

Recommended for readers 6+

Originally published in 1977 in Finland and translated to English in 2010, this Moomin adventure was the last picture book completed by beloved artist and author Tove Jansson. A young girl named Susanna is bored and irritable; her cat, being a cat, is curled up on the grass, enjoying the beautiful day, which seems to annoy Susanna even more. When a new pair of glasses just appears next to her, she tries them on and is transported to a fantastic land, where, though frightened, she sets off on a new adventure. She meets a group of fellow travelers who seem to know who she is: Hemulen (who readers familiar with Moomin will recognize), and friends from Moomin Valley:  Bob and Thingummy, Sniff, and Snufkin. Together, the group treads through surreal, creepy landscapes, braving volcanoes, storms, and monsters, until they reach Moomin Valley and safety.

The Dangerous Journey is a surreal adventure fit for kids and adults alike. The Dangerous Journey‘s rhyming text begs for a read-aloud, and Tove Jansson’s watercolor artwork appeals to the eyes and the imagination. The book’s final message also makes this a good graduation gift á la  Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go!: “Whether things turned out okay/She’s never going to know./When adventure comes your way/Enjoy it. Let it go.” This is a picture book classic to add to your collections; introduce it to readers of all ages who haven’t yet met the Moomins. You can meet the characters in Moomin, and see which character you’d be at the Moomin website.