It’s hard to read Can an aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Beach Lane Books, 2017) without wanting to join in with the howls, growls, bellows and laughs. I was reminded of the howler monkeys my kids loved to impersonate after hearing them at the Houston Zoo years ago.
Stewart leads with the title question of whether an aardvark can bark, and when we discover the sound it does make, she teaches us of other animals that make similar sounds. Then we are treated to animals that do bark. The book continues in a similar, but not monotonous way; there’s enough variation to keep the reader excited to turn the page. In total, Stewart portrays seven sounds and 35 animals, all delightfully illustrated with Jenkins characteristic cut-and-torn paper collage art.
This book makes a perfect inside chilly-weather read. Kids can act out their own zoo, complete with accurate sounds and do research on animals that pique their curiosity. I learned a lot about the different calls and sounds that animals make and can’t wait for the chance to read this with a young reader who will join me in some pretend play. What a symphony of sounds we will make!
August is a perfect time to read There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Laurel Molk (Candlewick Press, 2017). I have fond memories of summer trips to Maine, which were made perfect by some dockside meals at lobster pots.
Of course, I never caught the lobsters myself. Maybe I’d be scared of them like Sukie, the dog character in There Might Be Lobsters. Sukie is afraid of many things: big stairs, beach balls, the big rough ocean, and especially lobsters. Sukie is always comforted by her stuffed monkey, Chunka Munka, and shown lots of patience by her owner, Eleanor.
We’ve all had times where we’ve had fears like Sukie. What will help Sukie be brave at the beach? I’m not going to spoil the story for you. This book is delightful and will leave you with a smile, cheering on Sukie, and maybe even chasing away some of your or your young reader’s own fears.
At a recent trip to the library, I discovered a new book on opposites that is a visual delight as well as a fresh and more in-depth look at opposites than is typically presented for young children.
DOUBLE TAKE: A New Look at Opposites by Susan Hood and illustrated by Jay Fleck (Candlewick Studio, 2017) is a concept book in rhyme that teaches opposites. However, it further develops the concept of opposites by showing how some opposites, such as fast and slow or strong and weak, change depending on the point of view of the reader. Seventeen pairs of opposites are illustrated and explained, which is great start for your young reader just learning about them. Readers will want to reread DOUBLE TAKE for the crisp, fun and endearing illustrations that carry the same three characters throughout the book. Older readers will want to start making comparisons with all kinds of opposites.
Take a look at DOUBLE TAKE. Share it with your special young reader. I think you’ll both be delighted. And the blue elephant is so darn cute!
Grandmother Fish: a child’s first book of evolution by Jonathan Tweet and illustrated by Karen Lewis (2015, Feiwel and Friends) is a brilliant introduction to evolution for young readers. Tweet manages to get this difficult concept across with a mix of illustration and engaging, yet simple text, and in the process shows readers how we are connected to all life. Tweet pulls the reader in with questions asking if we also chomp, wiggle and breathe. However, these questions change from simple animal behaviors, which we do partake in, to behaviors children might more readily associate with humans as the story unveils our evolutionary tree, making the connections stronger.
Readers as young as four or five will be able to grasp this difficult concept, making later lessons in school and life easier to understand. I feel such understanding is crucial to our ability to feel grounded in life, to understand our niche, and to promote kindness toward each other and the conservation of nature and systems that sustain life on our planet.
Grandmother Fish can help any parent who understands the value of explaining evolution, but feels stuck about where to begin. It makes a beautiful foundation for further exploration. The back matter includes ways to talk about the book with children and explains some common misconceptions of humans.
Jonathan Tweet’s Grandmother Fish is an ambitious project and he tackled it brilliantly. Every child should have a chance to read this book.
Summer is the perfect time to plant an Anywhere Farm and Phyllis Root and G. Brian Karas have teamed up to show us how, no matter where you live, in their new picture book Anywhere Farm (2017, Candlewick Press). With delightful rhyme, Root gives instructions on the how, what and where to plant. Kids will love the silly suggestions for plantings, and even if some are dubious (the tuba) from a success standpoint, there’s no doubt that readers will be itching to get their hands in the dirt after reading this story.
I love how Root starts with one child planting a plant and ends with a whole community garden. Then on the last page, we are treated to a second ending, which also makes the story circular; a technique kids love. This story is brilliant in its construction and delightful in its rhyming text. Karas’ mixed media illustrations are full of detail and emotion that invite the reader to linger on the page.
Anywhere Farm is perfect for a quiet reading session as well as perfect inspiration for getting outside and active with a garden…anywhere!
Are you looking for a book that will add a bit of whimsy to your own stories or the stories you and your young reader share? If so, The Birdwatchers by Simon James (Candlewick Press, 2002) is a book you need. I’m an amateur birdwatcher so I was intrigued, however it is much less about bird watching and much more about the fun and silly way we can have a relationship with someone we love and trust.
Many parents or grandparents tease their children in a fun-spirited way and the child is quite capable of understanding truth versus fiction, of knowing when they’re being spun a tall tale. The Birdwatchers captures this kind of relationship brilliantly. As the author and illustrator, I suspect Simon James knew from the start what he wanted the illustrations to show. There are several times in the story where you could stop and talk about tall tales with your child, but I would definitely not do that with the first reading. You would spoil the magic.
Often I am too serious and so I wonder and wish I could write a picture book this quirky and humorous. I am off to reread it and ponder how to develop some eccentricity in my writing.
Martin Jenkins and Tim Hopgood have created a fabulous frog book. Portraying brief information about many kinds of frogs, Fabulous Frogs (Candlewick Press, 2015) is a delight to read from different sized, informative text to fantastic illustrations; you’ll want to ponder over each page.
Starting with a two-page spread before the title page, Jenkins and Hopgood give the basic life cycle of a frog from egg to tiny frog. Then the reader is thrown (happily) into the amazing and varied world of frogs. I don’t want to describe too much because it is a wonderful journey through kinds of frogs and features of frogs such as speed, size, poison and loudness. The illustrations are fabulous and the way Jenkins presents the text is fabulous. I especially love how Jenkins gives a sweet shout-out to how special it is to have an ordinary back-yard frog too, despite all the amazing variety presented in the book. This book is a keeper.