Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blue Floats Away explains the water cycle and global warming

Blue Floats Away, by Travis Jonker/Illustrated by Grant Snider, (March 2021, Abrams Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781419744235

Ages 4-8

Blue is a little iceberg who floats along with his parents in the North Pole until one day, when he cracks and floats away, surprising the three of them! He’s carried along by the water, noticing new and beautiful things and meeting new friends, when he transforms again, and again! Blue’s gentle little adventure explains the water cycle to young learners in a way that will interest and delight them, as Blue transforms from an iceberg, to a cloud, to a snowflake, as he experiences new and exciting things on his journey. Back matter includes more information about the water cycle and a note about climate change and its affect on polar ice. Blue Floats Away is so  much more than a cute STEM story to read to your Kiddos, though: it’s about growing up, having new experiences, and always having an eye toward home. Blue and his parents have subtly illustrated, gentle faces that I had to read a second time to really discover; Blue’s expressions change throughout his story; at first content, then frightened, unsure, even excited, as his story moves along. Mixed media illustrations remind me of Lois Ehlert in the best of ways. Deep blues dominate the story, with bright colors popping out to keep interest. Spare text makes this a great readaloud choice that you can follow with a torn paper collage craft, inviting kids to create their own Blue story. KidZone has water cycle activity pages for coloring that you can have handy for a storytime or grab and go craft, as does Clever Learner.

Blue Floats Away has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Great Rivers of the World teaches geography, history, and culture

Great Rivers of the World, by Volker Mehnert/Illustrated by Martin Haake, (March 2023, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374703

Ages 8-12

A companion to Prestel Publishing’s Great Ports of the World (2018) and Great Streets of the World (2019), Great Rivers of the World is a picture book tour of 18 of the world’s greatest rivers, from the Danube in Germany, to China’s Yangtze River, to the Egyptian Nile. Beautiful full-color spreads combined with informative facts about the rivers, with special attention to conservation efforts: the rain forests of the Congo, for  instance, are threatened due to environmental encroachment, mining of natural resources, and hunters. A foldout section on the Nile River discusses the environmental impact the citizens of Egypt face by polluting their river. There are great historical facts that would flesh out geographical and historical reports. A great additional nonfiction resource!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Earth Day! Resources and reading for you and your family

It’s Earth Day! I’ve got more books to gush about, and some resources, too.

We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom/Illustrated by MIchaela Goade, (March 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250203557

Ages 3-10

The first book up is one of the most visually stunning books I’ve read this year – and the lyrical prose reads like a prayer, a poem, a witnessing. Inspired by the Standing Rock Water Protectors who protested the Dakota Pipeline, We Are Water Protectors is created by indigenous author, Carole Lindstrom, and illustrator, Michaela Goade. Phrased as a story passed down through generations, about the sustaining life we receive from water, it also stands as a witnessing and call for help as we face the continued debasing of our planet’s natural resources. The artwork has traditional details, like a traditional skirt worn by the main character; swirling patterns inspire thoughts of water and its place in our life cycle; deep blues, purples, and orange inspire the dreamlike, womblike, atmosphere created by water. It’s a book that should give you chills as you read it, and is quietly urgent in its plea for action and positive, forward movement. Notes about Water Protectors, a glossary, and list of further reading add valuable resources to this story; an Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge inspires kids to take action.

If you don’t want to mess up your book, or have a library book (please don’t write in it or tear the page out!), you can print a copy of the pledge, and activities to help readers realize their place in the world as stewards of our future, in this free, downloadable activity kit.

We Are Water Protectors has starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Bookpage.

 

Some Earth Day things to do with your family today:

Earth Day 2020: Earth Day’s official website let readers tune into Earth Day events via webcast, including protests in Spanish and English, through the Earth Day Live link. Find Earth Day events on the general website.

The American Museum of Natural History is going all out for Earth Day, holding Earth Fest 2020; a collection of virtual celebrations to take part in, including Field Trip Earth, a global field trip around the world using interactive data-visualization software. Join a botany watch party and make a mini garden, learn to make your own instruments out of household objects like rubber bands and cardboard boxes, and travel to Venus and Mars and hang out with Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

National Geographic Kids has great, easy ways for kids to get involved in taking care of the world.

Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, filled with videos, activities, and information on Earth Day.

NASA has Earth Day projects, videos, and images of our big, blue marble!

Zoos are getting in on Earth Day with virtual field trips and activities. Check out:

The San Diego Zoo

The Virginia Zoo

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Phoenix Zoo

 

Protect our planet: it’s the only one we have!

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Creepy historical fantasy: Fear the Drowning Deep

drowning-deepFear the Drowning Deep, by Sarah Glenn Marsh, (Oct. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $16.89, ISBN: 9781510703483

Recommended for ages 12+

Sixteen year-old Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her grandfather drown himself, called by mysterious music that only he could hear. She was ridiculed for saying that the sea took her grandfather, so she’s learned to keep to herself, but things are changing in her Isle of Man village. A dead girl washes ashore, and so does a handsome young man, still alive but bleeding from something that attacked him in the water. Bridey calls him Fynn, because he claims no memory of anything that happened or who he is, and she finds herself falling for him. But things are getting worse when other girls start disappearing, and the town starts pointing their fingers at Fynn. Bridey – who’s now apprenticed to the village witch – knows there is something in the water that’s to blame, but no one wants to listen to her, except for the woman she’s apprenticed to; and she’s got secrets of her own. Can Bridey save everyone she loves from walking into the water and never returning?

Set in 1913, Fear the Drowning Deep is good, creepy historical fantasy. Setting the story on the Isle of Man in pre-World War I era Europe gives a true feeling of isolation, providing an almost claustrophobic mood as Bridey tries desperately to unlock the secrets of the water before it takes any more of her friends or family. Every single character in this book has depth and lends something to the narrative. The prose is beautiful; literary and fantastic all at once; the dreamlike haze she spins for the water’s victims almost lulls readers into a similar, comforting feeling before the author chills you with the revelation that someone has been taken. The relationship between Bridey and Fynn will please YA romance fans, and the pairing of Bridey and Morag, the village witch, is wonderful: atagonistic yet loving, strong and supportive. There’s intrigue, secrets, and revelations to be had all around, making this a solid dark fantasy/romance read for your teens. Pair this with Ananda Braxton-Smith’s Merrow for a pair of water-based mysteries with a touch of the paranormal.

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Intermediate

The power of stories: The Storyteller

storyteller-1The Storyteller, by Evan Turk (June 2016, Athenum), $18.99, ISBN: 9781481435185

Recommended for ages 5-10

Every now and then, you get an epic in storybook form. The Storyteller is such a tale. We sit down and listen to the storyteller: the narrator of the book, who tells us how the Kingdom of Morocco formed at the edge of the great, dry Sahara desert; how there were fountains of cool water, and storytellers to bring the people together. We also learn that as people forgot the perils of the desert, they forgot about the storytellers, too – except for a single boy, who happened upon a storyteller while in search of a drink of water. The storyteller spun tales for the boy, always leaving him thirsty for more stories.

Once a sacred duty to preserve a culture’s collective memory, the advent of television, movies, and the Internet whittled away at the practice of storytelling. What The Storyteller gives us is a beautifully complex, layered tale that illustrates the power of storytelling, an art that – according to the author’s note at the end of the book – is at long last making a comeback.

Mr. Turk’s art has an ancient feel to it, capturing the story’s spirit using a variety of instruments: water-soluble crayon, colored drawing pencils, inks, indigo, sugared green tea, a heat gun, and fire. The final product made me feel like I was holding a revered story scroll, reading tale straight from history.

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Evan Turk received the New Illustrator Honor from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation for Grandfather Gandhi. Find more of his artwork at his author website. The Storyteller has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.

This is a picture book more for school-age kids than little ones. The publisher suggests ages 4-8, but I’d bump it up to ages 5-10, because I feel like Kindergarteners would be better able to sit through the story and lose themselves in this tale. I also feel like this would be a great book to skew a little older with; for instance, upper elementary grades that have storytelling/fairy tales units would have great success introducing this book to classrooms.

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Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Enjoy the last days of summer with The Specific Ocean

specific oceanThe Specific Ocean, by Kyo Maclear/Illus. by Katty Maurey (Aug. 2015, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781894786355

Recommended for ages 4-8

A young girl wants to stay home in the city and spend her summer vacation with her friends. Her dad says no. Over the course of the story, the girl goes from being bored to falling in love with the beach, the water, and the joy of having time.

This is a beautiful book. The mixed media artwork and muted colors being a relaxing, peaceful feeling to readers. The young girl’s desire to stay with her friends will resonate with readers who feel the same way, as will the gradual love story that begins between the girl and the beach, and her desire to take the beach home with her at the summer’s end. The peaceful feeling of not having anywhere to be and the calming water brings a lovely feeling to both reader and audience. This makes a great cuddle-time, bedtime story to wind down after an exciting summer day.

Author Kyo Maclear’s author page includes a blog with sneak peeks at her upcoming books. Here is a peek at some of The Specific Ocean, courtesy of her blog.

SpecificOceanThe_2278_preview-1

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Four Little Witches: A Tale of Friendship and Mother Earth

4_witches_coverFour Little Witches, by T.J. Perkins/illus. by Eimi Pinero (2015, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-7643-4943-0

Recommended for ages 2-6

Four Little Witches is a sweet little story about four friends who control the elements: Fiona, the Earth witch, Gale, the Air witch, Blaze, the Fire witch, and Marrie the Water witch. One day, an accident sets off a potential disaster, but the girls come together and use their powers to protect and heal the Earth.

This book works on several fronts: it’s a charming look at friendship and the power of working together, and it’s a good way to introduce the the elements to young children. Fire, water, earth, and air are powerful elements, and we see both their potentially destructive AND their healing powers here. It’s a loving look at nature and can provide a good Nature storytime read. I’d get some leaves for a fun nature craft afterward for my little group.

Eimi Pinero’s art provides an idyllic setting to go with the story, using muted pastels and vibrant colors together to communicate the beauty and power of nature. The story uses a simple black font in the white space on each page, making it both a good read-aloud choice and inviting a new reader to discover some new words.

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Four Little Witches makes a nice addition to a Nature bookshelf, providing a new way to explain the elements and engender a respect for Mother Earth.

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!