Remember when you were small? Perhaps you cannot. It’s hard to remember our first few years, but Gina Perry reminds us in Small (little bee books, 2017). It can feel frustrating to be small, to feel small and overlooked, or left out or taken advantage of. Small is a sweet story of a young girl who comes to understand that small is just a word and she can change things up, by taking a different perspective. She can feel BIG.
This book helps young readers who may feel the same as the character in Small, since young children are often told their ‘too little’ …But the young girl’s approach can also be transferred to other feelings a reader may have: feeling happy instead of sad or confident instead of shy. Small empowers our young readers to take control of their feelings. And that’s no small feat to accomplish.
Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story by Anna Forrester and illustrated by Susan Detwiler (Arbordale Publishing, 2017) is a delightful treatise for bats. In the main story we learn of bats’ life cycle and the problem they face with white-nose syndrome. In Arbordale’s signature back section called For Creative Minds, we learn about bat anatomy, ecological importance, details of white-nose syndrome and about citizen science. The information presented is vital to understanding the importance of helping bat populations recover.
What I love best about this book is how the information is presented. Forrester weaves the bat’s story with the story of the main character, Jojo, and her family. This parallel presentation is perfect for helping young readers see how humans are similar and different from other animal life, and also how our lives are connected. Without bats, there would be too many insects. Nature tries to keep a balance; humans tend to disrupt this balance. I am grateful for citizens who keep informed and try to help nature. I am grateful for people who not only want to do less harm to nature, but who want to learn about nature. And I am always grateful for anyone who has thrown away the ‘ew’ factor and embraced the role of each organism in nature.
Forrester has succeeded in giving young readers a gift of the ability to love and respect bats. I am pleased to see that many readers will have a chance to get this gift. Bat Count has been selected as a 2018 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Children Book Council’s (CBC) Outstanding Science Trade Books. I hope you too will give Bat Count and bats a chance.
Yesterday I went to Over the Moon Bookstore in Crozet, Virginia to hear Kathryn Erskine talk about her new book The Incredible Magic of Being. I didn’t know I’d be treated to a double feature. Turns out Kathryn had two new books released on the same day! The second, a sweet surprise to me, is the picture book Mama Africa! illustrated by Charly Palmer (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017).
Mama Africa! is about Miriam Makeba’s life spreading the injustices of apartheid through her voice, through her songs. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this brave, principled woman, but equally so, I enjoyed how Erskine told Miriam’s story: weaving actions and reactions with grace, pulling at the reader to roar with Miriam about the wrongs of racism and to root for her as we hear of her life’s challenges and successes. Erskine manages to tell of a serious, painful story in our history in a way approachable by young readers yet not belittling those young readers in the process.
I’ve never been to South Africa, but Palmer’s bold and colorful illustrations capture my imagination of the setting as well as fuel a spirit that also drove Miriam Makeba’s life work to end apartheid.
Mama Africa! is not a book I might have discovered myself since I am so caught up in the animal and plant world, but I am so glad to have met Kathryn Erskine and read Mama Africa! Both women* using their voice to fill our world with hope.
*Miriam Makeba died in 2008.
In Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello (Charlesbridge, 2017) Little Pig is disappointed that he’s still too little to join his siblings for their annual week at camp. What kid, or grown up, can’t relate to a time they’ve felt left out?
Little Pig is a good pig and he does his best to fill his time, but still his days seem long and lacking of the excitement his brothers and sisters are no doubt having. With the help of his Poppy, Little Pig creates his own summer fun in the stream with his toy ship. At the end of the week, an accident and a grand adventure ensue when his ship goes over a waterfall and out of reach. Little Pig does indeed save the ship; I won’t tell how.
That’s not really the point of the story. When Little Pig’s siblings return, it’s Little Pig’s exciting rescue story that makes his summer complete. His brothers and sisters relish his story and his stream play. The result being a summer of inclusion much grander, dare I say, than a week away at camp!
Little Pig Saves the Ship is a sweet story of making the best of disappointment and finding contentment in the process. It’s definitely a book to share.
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!