Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Surviving the Wild: Remy Lai’s new graphic novel series!

I’ve been enjoying Remy Lai’s storytelling ever since I picked up an ARC for Pie in the Sky a few years ago. She creates a great mix of visual and prose storytelling, creates instantly memorable and lovable characters, and successfully weave humor and pathos into her stories to get at the heart of deep issues. She’s got a new graphic novel series, Surviving the Wild, that tells fictional animal stories based on true events, and calls attention to the effects of climate change and habitat encroachment on the animals we share this planet with. Let’s look at the first three stories!

Surviving the Wild: Star the Elephant, by Remy Lai, (Apr. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250784995

Ages 6-9

Star is a young elephant living in a herd with his mom and aunt, but the herd needs to find a new home because resources are becoming scarce. During the journey, Star is separated from his family and left to find his own way to safety and, hopefully, his family. Inspired by a 1990 story about bull elephants losing their home, Star’s story has some differences, noted in the back matter, but the heart of the story is the same: deforestation and human interference are causing animals to lose their homes. Star’s fear of humans is not without cause, but there’s some tension as readers worry that Star won’t be able to tell the difference between harmful humans and the humans who wants to keep elephants safe, bringing them to a sanctuary. Star reacts in a very relatable, childlike way to being separated from family and to stranger danger. The colorful artwork and dialogue makes for a very readable animal story; back matter includes deeper insight on the 1990 story that inspired Star’s tale, elephant facts, and ways kids can help keep the Earth livable for everyone.

Surviving the Wild: Rainbow the Koala, by Remy Lai, (Apr. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250785442

Ages 6-9

Rainbow is a young koala who’s enjoyed life in his mom’s pouch. When Mom tells him it’s time for him to go off and live on his own, he’s scared! It’s not as friendly out there when you don’t have your mom with you, and poor Rainbow can’t find a good tree of his own or a place where he can get water. It’s hot and the forest is dry, and the creek that he remembers mom taking him for water seems to be dried up. Thirsty, tired, and dispirited, he escapes humans and finds himself in the middle of an exodus: there’s a forest fire coming, and Rainbow is right in the middle of it. Rainbow’s story is inspired by the Australian bush fires of early 2020, which impacted over 60,000 koalas and millions of other animals and insects. Rainbow’s story hits hard; there are painful moments as he surveys the devastation around him and burns his own paws as he tries to find safety and shelter. Rainbow’s fear clearly comes through in his first-person narration, whether it’s through his speaking out loud to his mother as he struggles to survive in the wild, or to calm himself as he sees the forest burning around him. The stark, decimated landscape is heartbreaking in the aftermath of the fire.  Once again, we worry that Rainbow won’t understand that some humans – in this case, the rescuers searching the forest to bring animals back to animal hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Back matter includes the story behind Rainbow’s tale, koala facts, facts about climate change and ways that kids can take action.

Surviving the Wild: Sunny the Shark, by Remy Lai, (Aug. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250785459

Ages 6-9

Sunny is an oceanic whitetip shark on the hunt for some food, but ends up the protector for a group of pilot fish who promise to keep her clean in exchange for food crumbs. Sunny isn’t sure she’s thrilled about having a group of chatty fish swimming around her, but she tries to be good-natured about it. One day, what she thinks is a yummy squid tentacle turns out to be a plastic ring, which wraps itself around one of her fins and impacts her movement. Since she’s a growing shark, that ring is going to get tighter and more uncomfortable as she gets bigger – and it’s already causing a problem for her when trying to eat. She’s got to find a way to break free of the ring, especially before the winter sets in. Will the oceanographers who tagged her be able to help? Inspired by a 2019 news story, back matter talks about the creative adjustments made to the original story while still bringing home the impact of pollution on our oceans and ocean life. Back matter also includes shark facts and ways kids can help keep plastic use down.

Each of these stories is such a strong statement on how humans are failing as stewards of the planet, yet filled with hope and awareness of how we can also be the change that puts things back in balance. Remy Lai creates characters that have much in common with readers, to foster a relationship between kids and the planet, and them empowers them with simple, powerful ways to bring about change. The Surviving the Wild series is a must for your graphic novel collections.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

This is a Kobee Manatee Virtual Book Tour Stop!

The fourth Kobe Manatee adventure takes Kobee and friends, Tess the Seahorse and Pablo the Hermit Crab, to Belize on a mission to help Kobee’s cousin clean up plastic pollution so she can open up her new underwater bistro. As the friends are on their way, they see for themselves what plastic pollution looks like, as they help rescue a turtle with a plastic bag wrapped around her, and see the effects of climate change around them. As they dodge some scary marine life and discover the amazing Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, what started as a quick trip to help out a family member turns into a big adventure with lots to learn!

Kobee Manatee: Climate Change and The Great Blue Hole Hazard, by Robert Scott Thayer/Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos
(Sept. 2021, Thompson Mill Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780997123999
Ages 4-8
There have been a spate of children’s books confronting climate change and pollution, particularly focused on single-use plastic, lately, and with good reason. It’s killing our planet and suffocating our oceans. Kobee Manatee and his friends are the latest group to confront the plastic menace; artwork shows plastic ever-present in the details – a discarded water cooler bottle here, plastic bags and straws there – and a subplot directly involves a bag that wraps around a poor turtle. The story is about exploration and friendship, too, as Kobee and friends are heading toward Belize to help his cousin open her underwater cafe. The story includes fun facts on every page, and story details provide further insight into sea life, like a Portuguese Man of War – not a jellyfish! – and how underwater life is affected by climate change. Colorful illustrations are kid-friendly, and the underwater world is vibrant and beautiful, hopefully inspiring readers to fight to cut down on plastic use and pollution.

Follow Kobee’s author, Robert Scott Thayer, on Twitter and Instagram (where you’ll also discover a giveaway!)!

Follow Illustrator Lauren Gallegos on Twitter and Instagram! See more of Lauren Gallegos’s artwork at her website.

BOOK DETAILS

Kobee Manatee® Climate Change and The Great Blue Hole Hazard

ISBN: 9780997123999 (Hardcover)

ISBN: 9780997123951 (eBook)

32 Pages and 4th Installment in the Award-Winning Kobee Manatee® Children’s Educational Picture Book Series

Publish Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Thompson Mill Press

Where to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Kobee-Manatee-Climate-Change-Hazard/dp/0997123990/ref=sr_1_2?crid=NLRPRF5R2OZP&dchild=1&keywords=kobee+manatee&qid=1631112443&sprefix=Kobee+Manatee%2Caps%2C170&sr=8-2

Price: $17.99 Hardcover

Visit other stops on the Kobee Blog Tour!

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

Ducks Overboard! The story behind the story that inspired Eric Carle

Ducks Overboard!: A True Story of Plastic in Our Oceans, by Markus Motum, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217728

Ages 7-10

In 2005, Eric Carle wrote Ten Little Rubber Ducks, a story about a shipping carton that leaked dozens of plastic rubber ducks into the sea, and their adventures after landing in the water. The book is based on a true story that took place in 1992; Ducks Overboard! is about the environmental impact of that accident, and about the pollution crisis facing our oceans. Narrated by one rubber duck, the story is part narrative – the duck’s story – and part nonfiction text. As the duck tells its story, smaller font provides factual information about plastic, its uses, and its the environmental impact. As the ducks bobs in the water, it sees pollution all around it: a plastic bag here; discarded fishing nets there; all creating problems for the animals in the water. Getting caught in a trash whirlpool, the duck spends years tossed around the ocean, until arriving on a beach shore during an environmental cleanup. The mixed media artwork is bright and colorful, and creates strong statements with its imagery: hundreds of dots in the ocean look like the shape of a continent, until one realizes that it’s a depiction of the shipping containers that get lost in the sea every year; a sea turtle swims underwater, dragging a fishing net wrapped around its neck; a spread illustrates the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The message is clear: plastic is choking our oceans. Back matter includes more about the 1992 shipping container that spilled ducks and other plastic toys into the ocean; how trash moves along ocean currents; facts about plastic, and how kids can help protect the waters. Great for storytime, great for STEM and Earth Day stories, great to read before a beach or neighborhood cleanup project.

Science Friday has a Great Pacific Garbage Patch teacher’s guide; Better Lesson and Siemens STEM Day have free downloadable lesson plans and activities.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

The Ocean Strikes Back in Super Sidekicks #2!

Super Sidekicks #2: Ocean’s Revenge, by Gavin Aung Than, (July 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593175125
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
The second book in the Super Sidekicks graphic novel series is all about the sidekicks standing on their own. The world’s leaders and the superhero grownups have been captured by The Mother of the Sea, who’s sick and tired of the damage us humans are wreaking on the planet, and it’s up to Junior Justice (JJ), Flygirl, Dinomite, Goo, and Ada, the most intelligent belt buckle in the universe, to save things and start the world on a better path. Mother of the Sea has put together a Trash Titan – a giant monster created out of all the trash from the Pacific Ocean – and wants to destroy all the land dwellers, so talking her down is going to take all of the skills the Sidekicks have at their disposal!
This is a perfect series for readers who are moving up from chapter books. It’s a fast-paced adventure story with fun superheroes who show the adults a thing or two about respecting kids and the planet. Illustrations are colorful, and the beginning of the story carries incredible weight: drifting trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; seagulls feeding plastic bottle caps to their babies; a sea turtle swimming with a plastic soda ring around its neck. Watching the Trash Titan form from the tons of junk polluting the waters, you kind of want to root for the Mother of the Sea. Naturally, the adults are all clueless, but the kids know what’s up! Empowering kids to save the world one piece of junk at a time, Super Sidekicks: Ocean’s Revenge includes tips on reducing our trash footprint, and tips on how to draw Dinomite and Goo.
Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

A young journalist looks for The Leak

The Leak, by Kate Reed Petty/Illustrated by Andrea Bell, (March 2021, First Second), $22.99, ISBN: 9781250217950

Ages 8-12

It starts at the dentist’s office. Ruth, an aspiring young journalist, is frustrated when her dentist scolds her for not brushing and flossing, and scoffing when she insists that she does. Shortly after the dentist visit, she and her friend Jonathan go fishing, only to discover dead fish and a thick, oily sludge by the water. Ruth decides to investigate and report her findings, with the help of her brother’s girlfriend – an intern at the New York Times – and finds herself on the radar of the local country club owner and the power company. Dealing with frenemies, a middle school crush, and finding herself thrust into the spotlight and being intimidated by people who have a lot to lose, Ruth has to choose between personal and journalistic integrity or getting out of the way of controversy. A brilliantly done story about freedom of the press, pollution, and integrity, readers will cheer Ruth on. Artwork is vivid and characters are expressive. This is the kind of art my library kids love; it’s super middle grade friendly and has so much to say. The dialogue keeps pace with the action and readers will get to challenge themselves by wondering what they would do in a similar situation. Give this to readers along with Kayla Miller’s Act and Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone for a surefire primer in activism.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Blue Giant needs your help to save the oceans!

The Blue Giant, by Katie Cottle, (June 2020 Pavilion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843654452

Ages 3-7

A young girl named Meera and her mother head to the beach to have a relaxing day, when a large, friendly, blue giant emerges from the water. He’s made up of water and sea life, and he tells them that he needs their help! Meera and her mom put on their scuba gear and head underwater, where the giant swirls around, showing them all the pollution underwater: bottles, plastic bags, fast food containers, it’s just a mess! Meera and Mom immediately start pitching in, but they realize this is too big a job for just two people: once back on land, Meera and Mom recruit others, who also recruit others, to clean up the beaches. Like the book says, “…when everybody helps out… even the biggest messes can be fixed!” A note at the end offers ways to reduce single-plastic usage, including easy ways for kids to help out, like taking a canvas bag to the store or carrying a reusable water bottle.

This is a companion to Katie Cottle’s 2019 book, The Green Giant, and examines a different area of pollution this time; where The Green Giant looks at deforestation and destruction of green spaces, The Blue Giant pleads the case for our waters, which are horrifically polluted, primarily by single-use plastics.

The illustrations are primarily rendered in shades of blue, with sweeping underwaterscapes that show incredible levels of junk floating around. A particularly moving panel shows the Blue Giant swirling around Meera and her mother, stirring up a whirlwind of garbage to surround them. Keep both this book and The Green Giant together for natural-world storytimes and Earth Day storytimes, activism and social justice storytimes.

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

Resolve to Recycle! Two books on cutting down on plastic

There are lots of great books about taking care of our planet out for kids, and two timely ones focus on the ways tweens and middle graders can start on a big problem: the use of single-use plastics. Inspiring, empowering, and fun, these are two great books to add to your shelves (and Plastic Sucks! also has the dual duty of offering some environmentally conscious careers, too).

Plastic Sucks! How YOU Can Reduce Single-Use Plastic and Save Our Planet, by Dougie Poynter, (Oct. 2019, Feiwel & Friends), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1250256201

Ages 10-13

Musician and activist Dougie Poynter, of the group McFly, is here to give kids some straight talk about single-use plastics: they suck. They suck the life out of our oceans, most notably, by killing marine life and decimating our natural resources. Poynter has put together a history of plastic, how plastic still has good uses (medical equipment, safety belts) but is largely used as a temporary convenience, and how kids can take action – and get families involved – to lessen the use of single-use plastic in their everyday lives.

Illustrated in two-color green and black, with loads of infographics and eye-catching statistics, this is a smart look at conservation with a friendly, informative voice. Poynter breaks down recycling symbols and has an illustrated aquatic foodweb to show how everything is interconnected, and how pollution affects life on earth as well as the oceans. Easy swaps illustrate how to cut down on plastic waste. Profiles of environmental activists run throughout the book, offering a look at different careers that may appeal to burgeoning activists: marine biologists, wildlife charity heads, and bloggers/YouTubers are all in here. A glossary is available to help readers with some new terminology. A nice, concise book to have in your environmental collections.

 

Kids Fight Plastic: How to Be a #2minutesuperhero, by Martin Dorey/Illustrated by Tim Wesson, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212778

Ages 8-11

Absolute fun while providing absolute info, this digitally illustrated guide to fighting single-use plastic gives kids a book full of missions to fight plastic: from our homes to our schools, to the supermarket and beyond, kids get the skinny on plastics while racking up points, whether it’s through identifying five “good” and five “bad” pieces of plastic, bringing a reusable water bottle everywhere you go, and making homemade snacks to cut down on the use of plastic-wrapped stuff, there’s something for everyone here. Martin Dorey is the founder of the #2minutebeachclean movement, and shows kids that 2 minutes can make a huge difference. Missions are all worth different points, which they can tally up at the end and calculate their “Superhero Rating”. Profiles of different rescued sea life and activists appear throughout on “Everyday Superhero” graphics that look like collectible cards – they can even envision their own Everyday Superhero card! – and missions are all available at the end of the book, in one convenient spot, so folks don’t have to go throughout the book to locate each mission. More resources are available for readers who want to learn more, including more information about the #2minutebeachclean initiative.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Lights Out rails against light pollution

Lights Out, by Marsha Diane Arnold/Illustrated by Susan Reagan, (Aug. 2020, Creative Editions), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-56846-340-7

Ages 4-8

A fox and a beetle are trying to settle in for the night, but it’s too bright! Lights Out, a story about the ways that light pollution affects nature, sees a series of animals set out on a journey to find out how to shut off all the lights: but they just keep finding more. “House lights / Car lights / Truck lights / Street lights… Everywhere -LIGHTS!” The artificial lights shine on, confusing birds and frogs, and keep a bear from hibernating. The group of animals travels together, looking for the source of all the light, until they discover newly hatched baby turtles, running toward the moonlit water and decide to follow. Swimming together to a small island, the animals finally discover the natural light they crave. A powerful statement on light pollution, the text reads like a lyric poem, beautiful and evocative. Susan Reagan’s artwork is soft and dreamlike, with the harsh yellow light almost intrusive to the reader as we shift to the animals’ point of view, following Marsha Diane Arnold’s words. There are breathtaking moments, like the moment the animals discover the stars after not seeing them for so long; Marsha Diane Arnold’s verse builds a yearning in readers, so the moment when they arrive at the island brings such joy, perfectly communicated by Susan Reagan’s artwork. An author’s note on light pollution begins the story.

Visit author Marsha Diane Arnold’s website for Lights Out downloadable activities!

A beautiful, poignant picture book to add to your collections. Display and read with Sue Soltis’s The Stars Just Up the Street, and Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight (I know, it’s artificial light, but we’ll keep it as non-intrusive as possible).

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy Earth Day! Books for the Journey.

Tomorrow is Earth Day, which is a surreal experience when we’re sheltering in place. Luckily, we can still go out, taking precautions, to enjoy our world; whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or just sitting in front of your home to notice the sky, the trees, the birds: everything around us is part of the experience. Here are some books to enjoy on the way.

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree, by Mary Murphy, $16.99, ISBN: 9781536214703

Ages 3-7

Is there anything like a comfort of a Mary Murphy book? As soon as I see her artwork and that font I’ve come to know and love, I just know I’m going to experience the picture book equivalent of a hug. Her new book, Only a Tree Knows how to Be a Tree, celebrates nature and life by pointing out how we’re all unique and how we all manage to live together, here, on Earth. Trees have leaves that turn sunshine into food; birds build homes in trees and can fly; dogs can wag their tails and flick water into their mouths to drink, fish live in water and flash like jewels. We are all a part of one another, as each spread illustrates, yet only a fish can be a fish; only a bird can be a bird; only a tree can be a tree. We’re all unique. Mary Murphy’s brush and ink artwork is colorful, bright, inviting, and warm. Endpapers show vibrant areas with a varied group of people coming together to celebrate trees and play in the sun. It’s just the perfect book to start off an Earth Day readaloud.

Mary Murphy’s author website has free, downloadable coloring sheets and card crafts! Keep the fun going!

Only a Tree Knows How to Be a Tree has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Alba and the Ocean Cleanup, by Lara Hawthorne, (March 2020, Big Picture Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210446

Ages 4-8

Alba is a sweet little fish who loves collecting shiny things. She enjoys being surrounded by her friends in their ocean home, but, as the ocean becomes more polluted, her friends have moved on, looking for cleaner waters and leaving Alba all alone. When Alba spies a shiny pearl, she must have it: and ends up trapped in a plastic bottle! A young girl cleaning up her beach notices Alba and takes her home to rehabilitate while the girl mobilizes her town to clean up the beach. Once she returns Alba to cleaner water, she’s thrilled to discover that her friends have returned – and that she can put her shiny pearl into her collection to proudly show off! An engaging story with dual messages makes Alba and the Ocean Cleanup such a good story to read on Earth Day and every day. Kids will be motivated by Kaia – the girl who discovers Alba trapped in a bottle – a child who makes a big difference, and they’ll relate to Alba’s love of shiny things and empathize with her experiencing her friends moving away. The artwork is colorful, vibrant, and just fun: it’s like a carnival underwater when Alba and her friends have clean living spaces! Endpapers are a colorful presentation of the ocean floor, with little Albas swimming around. Sharp-eyed readers can go back and look for 10 different kids of fish that author Lara Hawthorne provides information about at the end of the book, along with ways families can help take care of our oceans.

Alba and the Ocean Cleanup was originally published in 2019 in the UK.

 

My Green Day: 10 Green Things I Can Do Today, by Melanie Green, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536211313

Ages 3-7

This is a must-have Earth Day book for home, classroom, and library collections. Melanie Walsh’s 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World (2012) has been an Earth Day standard for me for years; adding My Green Day to my storytime reference and my circulating collection is just a given. A narrator moves through their day coming up with ways to be green; be environmentally friendly, for the day: from eating a free-range egg breakfast and composting the egg shell, handmaking gifts with recycled materials, bringing recyclable bags to the grocery store, and taking a short shower before bed are just a handful of the green things that come up in the course of a day. Each step is a simple, easy-to-accomplish task that kids can do and feel empowered, having taken action to improve their world. Each spread has simple, helpful facts on how each task accomplishes a green goal: “Cloth bags can be used again and again. You’ll never need to use another plastic bag”; Playing outside with friends keeps you fit and makes you feel good”.

Empowering, easy-to-read, and with colorful mixed media artwork that beckons readers to the pages makes My Green Day another great Melanie Green book to add to your collections.

 

More to come tomorrow! In the meantime, check out the Earth Day Education Resource Library.

Posted in picture books

Earth Hour Giveaway: The Stars Just Up the Street

What better to cheer up people than a giveaway? Read on for more about The Stars Just Up the Street, by Sue Soltis and beautifully illustrated by Christine Davenier!

The Stars Just Up the Street, by Sue Soltis/Illustrated by Christine Davenier,
(March 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763698348
Ages 4-8

This ode to the nighttime sky makes a smart and strong statement about pollution. Mabel is a young girl who loves the stars, but after hearing her father tell stories about growing up on the prairie, where the nighttime sky boasted thousands of stars, Mabel wants more. She plans ways to find more stars: climbing the tallest tree in her backyard, then going up to the hill in town; it doesn’t get much better. Mabel realizes that the lights from surrounding homes and the street lights block much of the sky’s view, so she and Grandpa begin asking neighbors, and, ultimately, the mayor, to turn off the lights, just for a little while. As the new moon arrives, the town gathers at the hill to watch the sky light up with thousands of stars, and a new tradition is born.

The Stars Just Up the Street is a story of advocacy, showing kids that they can affect change by asking; it also demonstrates the power of a little persistence. The story teaches kids (and adults) about pollution, and how it directly affects the night sky: and how we can begin restoring our planet just by turning off a light. Christine Davenier’s ink illustrations give us friendly faces and gorgeous night skies, where the stars come back to let us know they haven’t left us; we’ve just covered them up for a little while. What a great addition to an Earth Hour or Earth Day storytime, a nature storytime, or an anytime storytime.

Want to learn more about Earth Hour? Check out the website, and the World Wildlife Fund’s website, which has 7 fun activities to do in the dark (it’s a family-friendly site, folks!). Sustainablity.org also has 15 fun activities for Earth Hour, and Canadian website MomsTown has 60 kids’ activities. Earth Hour takes place on March 28th.

 

I’ve got two copies to give away, courtesy of publisher Candlewick Press. US addresses only, and no PO Boxes, please! Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!