Friday, May 26, 2017

Picture Book Friday

The Seashore Book by Charlotte Zolotow with illustrations by Wendell Minor has been redesigned for its 25th Anniversary and the results are splendid in this celebration of a children’s classic.

This gentle story begins with a young boy’s question. “What is the seashore like?” In response, his mother suggests they pretend to leave their mountain home and make a visit. Beginning in the early morning, as the misty sky grades from gray to pale purple to hazy blue, we follow mother and son as they build sand castles, delight in finding a white gull’s feather, sleep to the rising and falling song of waves, watch sand crabs squaggling at their toes, and finally make their way home as a glowing orange sun dips into the sea.

Zolotow creates a beautiful word picture that leads the child, and in turn the reader, through an extraordinary experience that delights the senses with lyrical language – “cold water makes your skin feel like peppermint.”; “The swish-swashing sound of [waves]”; “the lighthouse is flashing golden gleam on, golden gleam gone.”

Minor’s richly colored artwork is spare and precise, drawing attention to the heart of the text.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

What is the fascination with sharks?

Curious readers will find plenty of answers in Animal Planet’s chapter book SHARKS! which takes a look at sharks, from the petite 8-inch Dwarf Lanternshark to the enormous 45-foot Whale Shark.

The author, Lori Stein, dives into the subject beginning with a look at shared shark characteristics and basic differences. Included in the eleven chapters are a wide range of topics: senses, feeding habits, hunting strategies, and social interactions as well as in-depth looks at Great Whites and Hammerheads, discussions of shark bites, and the importance of sharks to the ocean ecosystem.

An abundance of photographs enrich the text and provide visual interest. Inserts titled IN YOUR NEWS FEED supply thumbnail discussions ranging from the study of cancer in Dogfish sharks, to the ongoing tracking of a Great White Shark named Mary Lee. Double-page FACT FILES, highlight extraordinary details such as the cave off the coast of Mexico where sharks can sleep, the epic 12,400-mile migration of a Great White Shark named Nicole, and the spectacular breaching of sharks as they hunt seals off the coast of South Africa. Colored text boxes define terms, and offer extra details.

A fun resource for home or school.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Picture Book Friday

I’m The Happiest by Anna Shuttlewood takes a gentle look at a group of animal friends who find themselves at odds when they begin competing with each other.

There’s no denying the obvious when Giraffe claims to be the tallest, but it doesn’t stop Hedgehog, Pig, Frog, Sheep, Leopard, and a host of others from experiencing a twinge of jealousy. Only Raccoon is happy for Giraffe. 

Soon each one is laying claim to a favorite quality: spikiest, prettiest, greenest, curliest, spottiest, and so on. But Raccoon continues to celebrate the unique qualities of his friends with the happiest of all dances and before long all his friends are setting their competition aside and joining in the celebration.

The bright watercolor illustrations are playful, never crowding the child-friendly text.

An entertaining story to read aloud.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

The Age of Dinosaurs lasted about 186 million years. Those millions of years produced creatures whose names: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus are familiar to book and movie audiences.

Animal Planet’s new chapter book, DINOSAURS! opens with an overview that introduces some of the more familiar names, explains the basics of fossilization, details how dinosaur are placed in orders and groups, and describes the characteristics that dinosaurs share.

Included in the eleven chapters are a wide range of topics: the bi-pedal theropods, T-Rex, dinosaur parents, feathered dinosaurs, the gigantic sauropods, anatomy, and carnivores vs. herbivores.

An abundance of photographs enrich the text and provide visual interest. Inserts titled IN YOUR NEWS FEED supply thumbnail discussions ranging from growth rates in dinosaur hatchlings, to the Pinocchio Rex named for its long nose. FACT FILES, highlight extraordinary details such as the discovery of the most complete T-Rex skeleton, Sue -- the remarkable mummification of dinosaur skin brought to light by a 16-year-old amateur paleontologist – as well as discussions of dinosaur eggs, and the ways in which Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus utilized their armored tails in battle. Colored text boxes define terms, and offer extra details.

A fun and informative resource for young dinosaur fans.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Picture Book Friday

Hattie Peck: The Journey Home by Emma Levey is a lovely story of diversity and the true meaning of family.

Hattie Peck returns in this follow-up book as she faces that parental moment of saying good-bye to the hatchlings that she saved and raised.  Unable to have eggs of her own, she collected the abandoned eggs of birds, reptiles, even a platypus. Raising her extraordinary blended family proves to be a mix of fun and chaos, but Hattie meets each challenge with wisdom and humor.

But at last the moment comes when her brood must leave home and make their way in the world. True to form, Hattie Peck shepherds her flock through stormy seas, up mountains, down underground, and through wind, rain and snow until each hatchling is settled into a new life. In a melancholy moment, she finds herself now with an empty nest, but life has  a splendid new surprise waiting just for her!

The lively text and bold colors make this a fun read-aloud. The subtle message never intrudes on the story’s exuberance. Simple language will make this a favorite with new readers. The imaginative and often large-scale illustrations contain just the right amount of detail to encourage new discoveries with closer examination.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Picture Book Friday

If you are a fan of ABC books or looking for a gift for that special little someone, this gem celebrating sustainable farming is a must have!

A Farmer’s Alphabet,” written by Charles Long with illustrations by Christina Allen, is an exceptionally fine example of all that is best in an alphabet book. The rhyming text is clever, imaginative, and introduces young readers to new vocabulary that is defined or explained in an author’s note at the end of the book. Each letter is paired with animals, plants, or other nature-inspired terms.

One of my favorite passages is:
M is for mushrooms, for moon, and for mice.
N is for nettles and nests in the night.
O is for owls, for onions, and oats.
P is for pumpkins, potatoes, and poults.

The glorious watercolor illustrations are inspired by Christina Allen’s farm in southern Maryland. The realistic artwork is beautifully detailed and many of the pages would be equally at home in frames.

Lovely from beginning to end.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Nonfiction Monday

Salamander Dance by David FitzSimmons is a feast for the eyes and a delightful read that introduces young readers to the exotic woodland world of the spotted salamander.

The story traces the life cycle of these shy amphibians as they find their way to cool vernal pools in the spring where their dance takes place in the dark of the night. A few days later, the females lay eggs then return to their forest homes. Baby salamanders, known as larvae, emerge a month later and live their underwater life sustained by plankton and insects. As summer warms and dries the pools, the salamander’s metamorphosis causes them to grow legs, and their gills disappear as their lungs develop. Soon the young salamanders make their way into the forest and seek refuge where they will hibernate throughout the winter.

 Lyrical descriptions, “Through slippery leaves, down muddy slopes, salamanders slide silently into the rising waters of their vernal pools,” are paired with richly colored illustrations of varying perspectives. The detailed pictures yield new information with each examination – an invitation to delve deeper.  

The final pages include a discussion that explains what vernal pools are and how they are created. Additional information on the natural history, migration, dancing, life-cycle, and diet of the salamander is provided along with a Glossary.

A perfect choice for nature lovers.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer