Friday, April 28, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Charming in every way, Wonderful You: An Adoption Story captures both the birth mother's search for the "perfect family" and the anticipation and joy of the adoptive parents when their hopes for a child are fulfilled.

The poetic voice is never forced nor does it stray from the heart of this thoughtfully imagined story.  The verse carries the reader through the birth mother's determination to give her child a loving family, celebrates that special moment when a couple becomes parents, and imagines their future as a family with all those "firsts" -- crawling, walking, birthdays, school, snowmen, before ending with a special promise to their "Wonderful You."

Inspired by author Lauren McLaughlin's experience as an adoptive mother, the story is filled with honest warmth and subtle insight. An ideal gift.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poetry Friday

I’m delighted to share Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson by Susan Snively, PhD.

Snively, who regularly leads discussions at the Emily Dickinson Museum,has collected 35 of Dickinson’s loveliest poems to introduce the poet’s artful work to a new generation of upper grade readers. The verses are organized by season and point up Dickinson’s interest in nature. Many of her works are inspired by the large garden where she preferred to spend time caring for the plants and observing the creatures who made a home there. Subjects range from butterfly and bee to death and eternity in this sweeping tribute to her remarkable talent.

The text is enriched by brief definitions that are strategically tucked beside or below the illustrations. A section titled, “What Emily Was Thinking,” provides a discussion of the works. A brief biography introduces the poet and creates a frame for her work.

The lovely pen and watercolor illustrations capture the varied subjects, reflect the shifting tones that range from playful to thoughtful, and provide hints to some of the subtler meanings embodied in Dickinson’s choice of words. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Writers Wednesday

When Mountain Lions AreNeighbors by Beth Pratt Bergstrom, California Director for The National Wildlife Federation, is a thoughtful and well-written collection of stories that highlight the challenges and opportunities that are inherent when people and wildlife coexist. 

The book focuses on the ways in which individuals – from biologists and other natural scientists to homeowners and freeway commuters – are finding ways to support and even encourage California’s amazing biodiversity. A pair of deer venturing across the Golden Gate Bridge, the amazing presence of P22, Griffith Park’s resident cougar, a peregrine falcon in San Jose City, and harbor porpoises returning to San Francisco Bay are only a few of the remarkable stories.

Bergstrom covers a lot of territory as she recounts the work undertaken to study and conserve a wide variety of creatures across California’s geographically diverse landscape. Each of the five photo-illustrated chapters open with a specific case and its significance in the overall conservation picture then enlarges on the theme to include associated topics before closing with a look at other related animals and situations in a series of one-page essays at the end of each chapter.

The writing is compelling and varied in its approach to the subjects. Chapter Three, Keeping Bears Wild: How Staff and Visitors in Yosemite National Park Help Wildlife, opens with forty-eight hours in the life of Yosemite black bear, based on the recorded travels of one of the bears tracked for research in 2014. This approach provides readers with an in-depth look at motivations, behaviors, and the impact of human habitation on the natural activity of this wild inhabitant of Yosemite. Additional discussions focus on Yosemite’s environment, the work of staff to intervene and develop humane strategies to reduce human/bear interactions that led to property damage and bear deaths. The chapter concludes with a look at the bighorn sheep, the fisher, the pika, Great Gray Owls, and the Yosemite Toad among other subjects.

The final chapter, Good Neighbors: What Californians Are Doing For Wildlife In Their Own Backyards details the ways in which communities, schools, organizations, and individuals are finding ways to support local wildlife.

The tone of the book is honest, realistic, and cautiously hopeful. The current challenges facing out natural environments are daunting, but this book is a reminder that successes are possible. Whether you’re a dedicated conservationist or simply someone who values the opportunity to enjoy a walk in nature, you’ll find inspiration and a new appreciation of the wild world just outside your door.

I enthusiastically recommend When Mountain Lions Are Neighbors.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Kingly College Knight Classes and the Dainty Damsel University of Distress: A Royal Mess by Jessica Parsons endeavors to turn the fairy tale world upside down in this tongue-in-cheek rhyming story. Dainty princesses and brave knights may make for an entertaining story, but they aren’t much use in real world situations – a fact all to evident when the Queen endeavors to turn all her subjects into paragons of fictional virtue and creates havoc instead. 

All too soon, the populace is in revolt and the queen soon discovers there’s more to personal success then rescuing fainting damsels in distress. Her princely sons won’t fight dragons and the ladies abhor glass slippers. But all comes right in the end when her majesty institutes a new policy the insures everyone can pursue their own dreams of success without bending to stereotypical roles. 

It's an entertaining story with a valuable subtext. The lengthy title gives a hint that the story is a bit longer than it needed to be. Never-the-less, youngsters who enjoy princely fairy tales will find fun in the pages which are designed to be colored by the reader.

The book identifies its audience as ages 6-12, but younger readers may require some assistance with the vocabulary and syntax. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Curious Critters by David FitzSimmons shines a spotlight on twenty-one unique creatures from the animal kingdom: fish, insects, reptiles, mammals, and birds. Many of the names will be familiar goldfish, bullfrog, blue jay, opossum, and monarch, but there’s a twist in the up-close and personal portraits and first-person narratives. 

Monarch means butterfly to most people, but here the monarch is actually the beautifully striped yellow and black caterpillar. Details about the life of the Spotted Salamander are shared in a short pair of verses. The Eastern Box Turtle treats readers to the secret of its long life.

Crisp, colorful photographs provide stunning close-ups of the cotton-candy pink Bush Katydid, a perfectly coiled fox snake, a bright-eyed Eastern Screech Owl, and the green brilliance of a Gray Treefrog among the many spectacular images.

Thumbnail portraits are paired with additional animal details in a section titled Natural History. A double-page spread featuring life-size silhouettes challenges readers to make identifications and a Glossary provides definitions of important terms.

A wonderful addition to home or school library!

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer