Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

A little bit of Flower Power goes a long way

Flower Power: The Magic of Nature’s Healers, by Christine Paxmann/Illustrated by Olaf Hajek/Translated by Jane Michael, (Apr. 2020, Prestel), $19.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7399-7

Ages 9-14

People have turned to flowers and plants for healing and food since the dawn of time. Flower Power: The Magic of Nature’s Healers presents 17 flowers that we still use for their healing properties, whether they’re available as teas, herbal medicine, or spices. Christine Paxmann begins with an author’s note on the human history of our relationship with flowering plants, from hunter-gatherers who learned through trial and error which were poisonous and which were beneficial (and tasty), to the ancient shamans, who began boiling, crushing, and mixing flowers and seeds together, to today’s consumer, who can walk into just about any store to pick up an herbal tea, cough drop, or spice to add to their food.

Each flower enjoys its own spread here, with an interesting profile discussing history and uses on the left-hand page, and on the right, a painting by illustrator Olaf Hajek. It’s really Olaf Hajek’s illustrations that are the stars of the show here: inspired by folk art, Renaissance paintings, and fairy tale illustrative style, each flower is bright and bold, with a touch of the fantastic and surreal, and immediately draws readers to the pages. These could easily be in a gallery as in a book.

The 17 flowers include names that are readily familiar, like the artichoke, dandelion, pineapple, and ginger; lesser-known appearances introduce readers to such plants as the Mary thistle, Madonna lily, and rowan. Flower Power is a nice reference book for readers interested in learning more about flowering plants and their uses and is a thoughtful add to STEM and nonfiction collections for middle school and high school. Flower Power is translated from the work’s original German.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

More Halloween books for your spooky read-alouds!

Hide and Seek, by Katie May Green, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763696061

Ages 4-7

Welcome back to Shiverhawk Hall, where the paintings won’t stay put! The companion to 2015’s Seen and Not Heard, Hide and Seek is a standalone rhyming picture book that tells the story of a group of playful paintings who clamber out of their frames for a day of hide and seek fun in the surrounding gardens and woods. Twin sisters turn out to be too good at the game, leading their friends on a chase until the rain sends them running back home to the comfort of their frames. The rhyming scheme is a joy to read and sets a perfectly lovely, eerie setting to the story. The charcoal artwork is colorful but never bold and loud, creating an atmosphere just eerie enough to be Addams Family-creepy, not nightmare-inducing scary. The ghostly sisters have  matching white dresses, long, black hair, and wide-eyed expressions; all the children wear period clothing, with loads of ruffs, ballgowns, buckled shoes, and sailor oufits. Pale pink endpapers give readers a glimpse into the forest, with imprints of leaves, animal tracks, and local fauna. Perfect for a creepy storytime read where you don’t want to terrify your little ones, but give them a delicious case of the willies.

 

The Right One for Roderic, by Violeta Nay, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205725

Ages 5-7

Roderic is the latest ghost in a long line of Roderics, but he’s also the smallest ghost in his family. He’s really not a fan of the boring white sheets that everyone in his family wears; it makes him feel even smaller than he already is, because hardly anyone notices him to begin with! Roderic starts experimenting with his look, adding hats and scarves to his ensemble, and comes up with a new look that he loves: but his family doesn’t. Roderic heads to the city, hoping to find a more fashionable group of people, but discovers that in a big city, he’s just as invisible as he was at home. He returns home, tweaks his style, and tells his family that he’s happy to be different and will wear what he wants: and his family, encouraged by his fashion sense, decides to take some chances on their own, too! The digital illustrations are adorable, making Roderic a sweet little ghost in the world. The ghosts are cute, not scary; they’re white, sheet-wearing blobs with big, round eyes and smiley faces. Roderic’s fashion experimentation is played for laughs and to broach discussion about individuality, finding what feels comfortable and good for you, and owning it. For Roderic to tell his family how he feels is a major step; it encourages kids to talk about what makes them feel comfortable or uncomfortable, happy or sad. A sweet story with a positive message.

 

Frankie’s Scared of Everything, by Mathew Franklin, (Oct. 2019, Building Block Press), $$19.95, ISBN: 9781944201227

Ages 3-6

Frankie tries to get to sleep at night, but it’s really hard when his mind won’t stop whirling. During the day, he’s got schoolwork, sports, and the neighbor’s dog with an attitude; at night, all the thoughts in his brain come together to send crashing, creaking robots; scraping, scratching dinosaurs; wailing, flailing sea creatures, and fuming, booming molemen after him! He runs to his mom, who calms him down by telling him that imaginations are tricky – they can make the simplest things into pretty scary stuff; by encouraging him to embrace his wild imagination, though, Frankie’s able to go back to those freaky creeps with a new outlook. Artist and author Mathew Franklin creates a wild, day-glo dreamscape, with bold, neon colors popping off a black and sepia background to create Frankie’s scariest nightmares. The sound effects and fonts are big, with easily readable white fonts that stand out against the dark spreads. The monsters aren’t scary so much as BIG: they take up the better part of each two-page spread, and the artwork has an incredible graffiti/tattoo flourish. Text is presented in word balloons and pieces of paper taped to the pages. Endpapers are black, with neon dots splashed across them, looking like a drop-cloth or a universe waiting to reveal itself. It’s a fun book that will work for a Halloween story, a story about facing fears, and a story about embracing your imagination. Publisher Building Block Press has some free printables on their website; not currently Frankie-related, but something to keep an eye on.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction

Colors of the Wind – “The wind is like a rainbow.”

Layout 1Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner, George Mendoza, by J.L. Powers (Sept. 2014, Purple House Press), $18.95, ISBN: 978-1930900738

Recommended for ages 7+

Colors of the Wind is one of those inspiring books that will take your breath away. Written for young readers and excellent for read-alouds in the classroom and the home, Colors of the Wind tells the story of George Mendoza, Olympic runner and painter.

As a child, George was always in motion. He was that kid that never stayed still; he wanted to be a basketball player when he got older. But his vision began to deteriorate, and he saw bursts of color. Suffering from a rare form of blindness called fundus flavimaculatus, his central vision has been destroyed, but he retains peripheral vision, which he refers to as “kaleidoscope eyes” because of the way objects reflect and are multiplied in his vision.

To take his mind off his blindness, George started running and ended up competing in two Olympics. He later began painting, remembering a priest who told him to paint what he saw. He uses fingerpaints, brushes – anything that will communicate to others the unique and beautiful way George sees the world.

This book is gorgeous. Illustrated with Mr. Mendoza’s paintings, this is a truly inspiring story of a man who literally changed his point of view. The text is enhanced with drawings by Hayley Morgan-Sanders. JL Powers presents Mr. Mendoza’s story with short sentences that are perfect for allowing young listeners to grasp the concepts presented and allows for deeper discussion on overcoming challenges and celebrating what gifts we have to work with.

The book includes a short biography on George Mendoza, and a list of paintings featured in the book. Two of my favorites are featured below: Purple Moon and Blind Man Touching the Sun.

purple_moon    blindmantouching

Colors of the Wind is available in stores now – ask your local bookstore, or order from Amazon!