Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Grow Love, Share Love: Oscar’s Tower of Flowers

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers, by Lauren Tobia, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217773

Ages 2-6

In this wordless book, a little boy named Oscar stays with his Nana when his mother goes away. He finds joy in planting with his grandmother, who takes him to the store to buy some seeds. Oscar’s green thumb proves to be pretty impressive, and Nana’s home quickly becomes covered in green! Oscar has an idea: share his love with others in Nana’s building! He loads up a red wagon with plants, and shares them with his grandmother’s neighbors throughout the building, spreading the joy he experienced while growing them all. When Mom returns, he happily sits on her lap, sharing some together time with Mom and Nana. Mixed media artwork beautifully tells this story, beginning with the endpapers: an apartment building bustles with people as Nana seems to wave to someone off in the distance; the back endpapers show a happier bunch of neighbors, with all of Oscar’s greenery decorating homes and the building’s roof, which appears to have added an apiary, too! The artwork is gentle, soft, loving.

As a mom of a certain age, I was relieved to see Nana looking so young! But don’t relegate yourself to the woman being Nana. There’s nowhere in the book that says so, and to be honest, until I read other reviews and the blurb text online, I thought the other woman was Mom’s partner. Flap copy says, “When someone Oscar loves has to go away on a trip, he tries to find ways to stay busy. With some grown-up help, a red wagon, and his favorite toy, Oscar plants all kinds of flowers and waits for them to grow”. You want Oscar to have two mommies? Oscar can have two mommies. The heart of the story is Oscar’s kind heart and his joy in cultivating plants to share. Keep a copy of this in your daycare/after school collections for littles who miss their parents when they go to work.

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers has a starred review from Kirkus. Visit Lauren Tobia’s website to see more of her work on Oscar’s Tower of Flowers and her work on one of my favorite chapter book series, Anna Hibiscus.

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.

Posted in Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Outdoor School is in session!

I’m excited to be a super influencer in Macmillan and Odd Dot’s Outdoor School campaign! Outdoor School is a series of books that’s going to help kids (and us grownups!) “re-wild” our lives, by helping reacquaint us with the outdoors and the world around us. Launching at the end of April, Outdoor School will have three definitive, interactive nature guides: Animal Watching; Rock, Fossil, and Shell Hunting, and Hiking and Camping. There are also two smaller, pocket Essentials Guides on Animal Tracks and Survival Skills; made with durable Tyvek material, these little guides are waterproof and tear-proof. Finally, there are Spot and Sticker books on Animals, Plants, and Birds, each with over 400 illustrated stickers for kids to use as decoration; plus, the book folds out into a checklist poster where kids can keep track of animals they discover along the way.

It’s been a heck of a year, and one thing we have started doing more is embracing the outdoors. I know, during the initial lockdown, we started walking around more because it was somewhere to go, somewhere to be able to see our friends and let my Kiddo run around and have while being able to keep a safe distance. Being able to take this a step further, with these guide books and sticker books, will make the spring and summer even more fun for my Kiddo and for my library kiddos: think of your local green spaces, like public parks. Think of local wildlife – we found raccoon footprints the cement over by a house near Kiddos’s school, which made us laugh, thinking about a raccoon leaving his little mark on wet cement in the middle of an urban borough. These books are beautifully constructed, with colorful pages and artwork, and it fosters a real respect for and love of the outside.

This is just the beginning of the promotion, so keep an eye out for lots more content and challenges until the books publish at the end of April. Watch this space for more.

Posted in Uncategorized

A greener, gentler world: The Green Giant

The Green Giant, by Katie Cottle, (July 2019, Pavilion Children’s Books), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-430-8

Ages 4-7

A little girl named Bea and her dog, Iris, spend summer vacation at Bea’s grandpa’s home in the countryside. One day, Iris chases a cat, sending Bea chasing Iris; the two discover a greenhouse packed with lush, green plants… and one of them is an honest-to-goodness giant! The friendly green giant befriends Bea, and tells her that living in the city was just too much: “…the city got more grey and it was hard to breathe. I had to leave”. Here in the magical greenhouse, the giant and all the plants have room to grow, and it shows: the illustrations depict bright, anthropomorphic foliage with smiling faces and outstretched branches and leaves. The greenhouse becomes Bea’s and Iris’s refuge for the summer, but all too soon, it’s time to go home. The giant hands Bea a gift of sparkling seeds, which she sprinkles outside her apartment window. A beautiful transformation takes place, turning the drab grey of the city into a green, yellow, and orange paradise! Will the giant return one day to see his friend’s handiwork?

The Green Giant is a lovely story about taking care of our world and encouraging green spaces. Katie Cottle takes an intuitive approach to talking green with younger children by creating a friendly green giant to explain that the city’s crowded, grey spaces made it too difficult to live – but, in an optimistic spark for the future, gives her seeds that will turn – maybe thanks to the greenhouse’s magic? – the concrete landsdcape into a living outdoor green space! The artwork is bright, bold, and primarily uses greens, oranges, browns, yellows, and blues, all coming to life from the a stark white background. Bea appears to be biracial; she is a child of color, and her grandfather presents as Caucasian.

Pair this with Ingrid Chabbert’s The Last Tree for an environmentally-focused read-aloud. You can also pair with Lois Ehlert’s classic, The Leaf Man, and invite kids to use leaves to make their own Green Giants and Leaf Men. Or invite parents to a container planting program, and encourage personal green spaces. Read an interview with author Katie Cottle on the Gardening Know How’s Blog, and visit her author webpage for more of her illustration work.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

Mighty Jack and The Goblin King: An incredible re-imagining of a classic tale!

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, by Ben Hatke, (Sept. 2017, :01First Second), $14.99, ISBN: v

Recommended for readers 8-12

It’s here! The sequel to Mighty Jack (2016) is here! And the best part? It’s AMAZING.

Mighty Jack introduced us to Jack, his autistic sister, Maddy, and neighbor, Lilly. The trio discovered a magical garden that got a little out of control; Maddy was kidnapped, and Jack and Lilly set off through a portal, determined to bring her back. Mighty Jack and the Goblin King picks up with Jack and Lilly arriving in a way station of sorts; a crossroads between worlds. Lilly is injured, forcing Jack to continue alone, where he discovers the giants’ plan for his sister: to feed her to a mechanical “beast” that will grind her bones into dust, and eat her, securing their ability to rule until the next time the beast needs to be fed! Lilly, meanwhile, has been rescued and is being cared for by goblins, who plan to marry her to their goblin king.

Spoiler alert: It’s not David Bowie.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

September Non-Fiction: Engineering, Nutrition, and the Planets

Engineered! Engineering Design at Work, by Shannon Hunt/Illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771385602

Recommended for readers 9-13

Nine engineering specialties -Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Geomatics Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Environmental Engineering – in this look at engineering design, which introduces readers to the step-by-step process by using eye-catching icons and nine case studies, one for each field. Team member bios that introduce kids to new scientists and what they do; new fields of engineering, like geomatics, are explained and illustrated, as are new technologies, like the incorporation of 3-D printing into biomedical engineering. Cartoony illustrations make the science more appealing to anyone who may think they can’t *do* science. Kids will learn that engineering can be found everywhere, from sending the rover to Mars, to saving animals from extinction, to replacing a sewer system to clear pollution from a lake. A glossary helps with new engineering terms readers come across.

Engineered! is a fun introduction to the basics of engineering and can be used equally in a science class, makerspace, or on career day.

 

See What We Eat! A First Book of Healthy Eating, by Scot Ritchie, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771386180

Recommended for readers 5-8

A group of friends takes a trip to a farm, run by one girl’s aunt. They’re there for pick apples and make an apple crisp for the potluck harvest dinner. Yulee’s aunt takes them on a tour of the farm, teaching the kids about growing grains and vegetables, getting enough nutrients, dairy, and protein – and addresses food allergies and alternative methods of getting those nutrients. Kids learn about transporting food to farmer’s market, stores, and all over the world. Ritchie addresses composting and recycling, and includes a tasty Harvest Apple Crisp recipe to try. A glossary helps readers with new words like pasteurize, carbohydrate, and nutrient.

The illustrations are soft, cartoony realistic, with a multicultural group of friends coming together to learn and eat. The room where the Harvest Celebration takes place has a line of hanging global flags as the families dine on pierogies, tamales, and apple crisp. With bolded facts and questions to encourage deeper thinking, this is a fun introduction for younger learners to nutrition and sustainability.

 

When Planet Earth Was New, by James Gladstone/Illustrated by Katherine Diemert, (Sept. 2017, OwlKids Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472036
Recommended for readers 4-7
Take a trip through time and space and discover how our planet – and life on our planet – evolved. Beginning billions of years ago when Earth was forming, When Planet Earth Was New follows our planet’s formation through volcanoes and comet bombardment; through the formation of the oceans and evolution of life in the oceans and on the land. Beautiful, digitally-enhanced watercolor spreads showcase colorful artwork of each moment captured, with brief descriptive text that preschool and early elementary audiences will find breathtaking. A gorgeous spread showcases life on Earth today: a blue whale, birds flying overhead, and a marching line of animals, including a human being. A section at the end of the book presents each spread in thumbnail format, with additional explanatory text, and a glossary and list of sources round out this introduction to astronomy for young readers.
My 5 year-old loves this book; the spare text is just right for him and he’s fascinated with the changes our planet went through on its journey to the present. It’s a beautiful-looking book, and a great addition to elementary nonfiction collections. I can’t wait to display a copy in my library.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Road Trip! Ranger Rick’s Travels: National Parks

ranger-rickRanger Rick’s Travels: National Parks!, by Stacy Tornio & Ken Keffer, (Aug. 2016, Muddy Boots), $14.95, ISBN: 9781630762308

Recommended for ages 8+

In a fabulous love letter to the National Parks of America and the National Park Service, the folks at Ranger Rick Magazine – remember them? They have books now! – put together this beautiful book, featuring each one of the 58 National parks across America. Ranger Rick and his best friend, Deputy Scarlett, appear throughout the book to join readers on a countrywide sightseeing tour.

The book opens with a map of the United States, including Hawaii, Alaska, and the US Virgin Islands. Each park is numbered and corresponds to the Table of Contents, which organizes the parks into 9 groups: Eastern Parks, Midwest Parks, Mountain West Parks, Southwest Parks, Utah and Nevada Parks, California Parks, Pacific Northwest Parks, Pacific Island Parks, and Alaska Parks. Each park’s profile includes stunning photos and facts that will make readers want to pack their bags and take a month or six off from work or school!

rangerrick-rickandscarlettEach park feature provides information in quick bites that read like a tourism guide. About the Park provides a quick overview and basic facts; What to Watch For are Ranger Rick’s top nature picks on what plants and animals to keep an eye out for. Ranger Rick’s Top Things To Do is a bucket list for each park – don’t leave without seeing Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park, naturally, but also make sure not to miss out on a hike through the park! Finally, Ranger Rick’s Amazing Facts are the “WOW” factor for each park: did you know that you can only reach Northwest Alaska’s Kobuk Valley National Park by foot, dogsled, snowmobile, or air taxi? Now you do!

This is a great book to have in collections and to have available when you’re talking about the U.S. There’s 100 years of history in the National Parks Service, but there are far more years in the history of these parks; there are petrified trees, dinosaur footprints and bones, and formations carved out of rock thousands of years ago, here for all to enjoy. Families planning a vacation or two can use this as a jumping off point (I know I am).

Don’t forget to head to the Ranger Rick website, where kids can read more about nature and the environment, play some games, and get craft ideas. Educator resources included lesson plans and webinars.

Ranger Rick and Scarlett image courtesy of Photobucket.
Posted in Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-fiction

What’s Up in the Amazon Rainforest?

rainforest_coverWhat’s Up in the Amazon Rainforest?, by Ginjer L. Clarke (Sept. 2015, Grosset & Dunlap), $8.99, ISBN: 9780448481036

Recommended for ages 8-12

I’ve been doing a lot of weeding in my new library spot, and the first section I hit was the Animals section. Naturally, I need some new books to fill in my shelves, and this beauty fits the bill. It’s a new geography series, loaded with color photos and a fold-out map, and it’s laid out like a dossier file, with photos sharing space with informative text, laid over maps in the background, and little touches like circled paragraphs and paper clips to give the feeling that kids are reading an environmentalist’s journal.

rainforest_1

There’s a ton of information packed into this book: Ginjer Clarke looks at each layer of the rainforest, the flora and fauna that can be found there, and moves on to provide quick profiles on the people that live in the rainforest, products that come from the rainforest (yay, coffee and chocolate!), and most importantly, the importance of conservation and preservation. A bibliography and index round out the book. I’d love to see a glossary and some websites for kids included in future editions – admittedly, I’m working from a galley of the book, so if any of these resources are included in the finished copy, I apologize! In the meantime, her blog offers really cool updates and photos of different places she visits while researching her books. (Wait until you see the size of the oarfish.)

You’ll learn about pink dolphins – who knew there were dolphins in the rainforest? – and howler monkeys, Kapok and cacao trees. Fold-out maps will let kids place themselves in the locations they’re reading about.

Author Ginjer L. Clarke writes popular nonfiction books for kids. She’s got a section dedicated to her Baby Animals series on her website, and sections with more information about her other series, including more of her What’s Up, Out, and Wild Animals series.
Check out some more of What’s Up in the Amazon Rainforest below. The pictures are unbelievable!
rainforest_2 rainforest_3
rainforest_4 rainforest_5
Posted in Preschool

Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay is a gorgeous book about new beginnings and friendship!

buterfly parkButterfly Park, by Elly MacKay (2015, Running Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0762453399

Recommended for ages 3-8

A young girl moves from her home, surrounded by green and butterflies, to a new house, where she hears horns and sirens, and everything looks the same. Until she finds the gates to a park next door, that read “Butterfly Park”. Thrilled, she drops in – but there are no butterflies to be found in the park! She sets to work with her neighbors to create a place that the butterflies will return to again and again.

This book delivers such positive messages in a beautiful setting. Created with collage and diorama, the art seemingly takes on an extra dimension, inviting the reader to join in the quest to bring the butterflies to Butterfly Park. The characters, known only as The Girl and The Boy, facilitate this by easily allowing any child reading the book to become The Girl or The Boy, chasing butterflies and planting flowers with nectar that the butterflies will love.  The entire neighborhood comes together to help The Girl create the garden, illustrating the value and the fun in teamwork. The girl’s determination to make the best of her move and her new surroundings will resonate with anyone who’s had to move and start over.

The book’s cover folds out into a poster featuring plants that attract butterflies, and the final pages fold out into a beautiful panorama of a community butterfly garden. Kids will likely want to get some seeds and tools and plant their own gardens after reading this book – and they should! It’s springtime! Show kids they can create a garden anywhere – container gardens and houseplants are just as much fun to work with as outdoor gardens.

Join #TheButterflyTrail at Running Press’ Butterfly Park site and learn more about the book and the author.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Experiment with What a Plant Needs to Grow – Science Fair Help is Here!

what a plant needsExperiment with What a Plant Needs to Grow, by Nadia Higgins (Mar. 2015, Lerner Publishing Group) $26.65, ISBN: 9781467757300

Recommended for ages 8-12

There are few absolutes in life, and the annual school Science Fair is one of them. Experiment with What a Plant Needs to Grow is here to rescue your child (and you) from yet another ice cube melting experiment. With full-color photographs and easy to read, step-by-step language, the book guides you and your child through the necessaries in keeping a plant alive – sunlight, air, water, minerals – and the finer details: how much water does a seed need to sprout? What will a plant do to find the light it needs (hint: a LOT)?

The book is a science fair project in one convenient spot. There are several experiments from which to select, and the book never gives anything away for free – it asks questions to guide your child in the scientific process, never handing your child the answer. These are hugely helpful questions that they can use to write their own notes and summaries, and bring home that winning ribbon. Good luck!