In Nutt’s debut, a magical encounter with fireflies helps a young girl overcome her fear of nighttime shadows. When Amy notices the glow outside her shadowy bedroom, she goes on a nighttime foray armed with a jar. Her childish enthusiasm and excitement are palpable as she collects the fireflies, the jar lighting the way back to her room. But, “With her eyes on the jar, / from the base to the rim, / she was suddenly saddened, / for the light had gone dim.” Unscrewing the cover for a closer look frees the fireflies, and they regain their glow. And with their light outside, Amy is finally able to relax and sleep. . . . The illustrations blend the realism of photographs with the softer look of paint, creating a whole that is warm and shows depth and texture. His artwork excels at portraying the contrast between shadow and light, with the light sources positively glowing. Sweet, with lovely artwork.
— Kirkus Reviews (April 2010)
Ancient Rhymes, A Dolphin Lullaby
Denver’s gentle lullaby comes to life in Canyon’s gorgeous paintings. It tells of a baby dolphin, which, in much the same way as a human baby, learns of many dolphin ways while it’s still in its mother’s uterus. When it’s born, it leaps about, tasting the air and racing the seagulls. Denver’s hope was that this dolphin baby would teach humans the song of the dolphins and tell them how to share the earth in harmony. Canyon’s work richly paints a portrait of the dolphin’s watery world, with stippled effects that evoke the sun shining through the water and the foam on the crest of a wave. Youngsters will even gain a better understanding of dolphin birth through the illustrations-one shows a baby dolphin curled up with an umbilical cord and another, the actual live birth from a spot just underneath and behind the mother’s dorsal fin. A better-than-usual effort in the trend of song illustration.
— Kirkus Reviews (September 2004)
The BLUES Go Birding Across America
The first in a planned series, this introduces readers to the BLUES, a bluebird band of five members. Their mission is to compose a new song for their first big concert on the lawn of the White House on the Fourth of July. To accomplish this, they are visiting the different regions of the United States and listening to the birdsongs in those areas. This clever concept introduces young children to the joys of birdwatching. Each spread includes a page from one of the BLUES’ notebooks as well as a page from a field guide. Taken together, these give readers some interesting facts about each bird. Birding tips scattered throughout will help aspiring birdwatchers successfully begin their new hobby. Backmatter includes a map of the United States marked with each bird’s location and a list of sources for further information. Schroeder’s BLUES are full of personality, each with his/her own strengths, interests, likes and dislikes. She keeps them easy to identify with accessories in their favorite colors, and the cartoonish main characters stand out well from the more realistically portrayed regional birds and their habitats. A creative introduction to a popular hobby.
— Kirkus Reviews (April 2010)
The BLUES Go Extreme Birding
A band of five cartoon bluebirds travel the world in search of record-setting bird species – the fastest, best mimic, highest flying, pinkest and more. This third in a series, which began with The BLUES Go Birding Across America (2010), continues to promote bird-watching among young readers through the antics of bluebirds musicians Bing, Lulu, Uno, Eggbert and Sammi – each with identifiable characteristics and easily distinguished from the more realistic birds illustrated on the pages. Each of the dozen species is introduced in the narrative and described further through entries in a nature notebook and a field guide. “Extra Extremes” mention species that set similar records. Some of the birds may be familiar to young readers – the peregrine falcon, emperor penguin and ostrich, for instance – but others will be new. Their trip ends with a sighting of the horned sungem hummingbird in Brazil, an opportunity for the authors to promote an upcoming volume about the rain forest. The band’s trip is mapped at the end on a world map with labeled continents; a handy list reviews the species and notes where they were sighted. The facts have been vetted by a birding expert, sources are given in the acknowledgements and birding closer to home is encouraged. This is a clever extension of the series, taking advantage of children’s interest in records and in Xtreme sports of all kinds.
— Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011)
Constructed from zillions of polymer clay pellets in every imaginable hue, Canyon’s illustrations create dizzying, very close-up, pigeon’s-eye city views for which Rammell’s short, similarly semi-abstract verses provide well-tuned accompaniment. Wondering what pigeons see as they “feel the city beats,” the poet veers in frequently changing cadences from concrete observations of “different shoes on different feet” to straight sound effects: “Screech! Hiss! / Pop! Pound! / Rat-a-tat-tat! / Ka-thunk-ka-thunk!” The verses float opposite ornate window frames that provide a glimpse “outside” – and also turn out to be large die-cut rectangles, so that with each turn of the page the scene bursts into full-bleed glory while the already-read lines show through. More generic in locale, but similar in visual energy to Robert Neubecker’s Wow! City! (2004), this flight will send young audiences fluttering and spinning through their own urban visions.
–Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2006)
Earth Day Birthday
“On the first Earth Day Birthday the wide world gave to me . . . A bald eagel in a blue sky.” In cumulative verses . . . Schnetzler introduces a menagerie of familiar creatures, up to “twelve wolves a-howling,” capped by an eloquent comment on the origins and purposes of Earth Day. Wallace’s dramatic, spread-filling, close-up animal paintings . . . provide plenty of visual interest-and his wildlife often seems to be gazing expectantly out at viewers, as if asking “Well? What are you waiting for?”
–Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2004)
After discovering a flock of turkeys in her yard in the spring, Jenny continues to watch them throughout the year.
With a simple text, mostly rhyming couplets, the young nature watcher describes the turkeys’ appearance and behavior as they nest and raise their young in the woods nearby. She notes particularly how they walk and fly. “Toms strut and puff to look their best.” In a departure from her previous straight collage work (Scoot, 2008, and others), Falwell augments her multi-media (cut and torn paper and found natural materials) images with overlaid block prints. Leaf prints add further texture. These charming illustrations also show other animals, including deer, chickadees, cardinals and squirrels. Plants and trees are recognizable as those of the author-illustrator’s Maine world, and seasons are indicated with a vignette underneath the text: apple blossoms, dandelion flower, red leaf, snow flake. Images of turkeys slipping on the frozen ground and the child’s imagined vision of them sliding down snowy hills add humor. The book concludes with “Jenny’s Journal,” straightforward exposition offering more facts about turkeys for older readers. As she’s done before, the author includes suggestions for artwork and other activities. An “Animal Tracks” puzzle provides an appealing conclusion.
Not just for Thanksgiving, this should be a welcome addition to nature shelves all year round.
–Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2011)
Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration
A creative-nonfiction look at animal migration. Each spread focuses on one animal, describing both its journey and the reason behind it – the change of season, to give birth or to search for food and water. An additional paragraph rounds out the information presented in the rhyming verses . . . The animals include a good mix of fauna from land, sea and air, and many will be familiar to readers. A final spread combines the migration routes of all the animals on a map focused on North America. DiRubbio’s realistic artwork places each animal in its own environment, complete with the surrounding colors and flora. While highlighting the individual animal “speaking” in the verses, she also depicts whether the animal is usually a part of a herd or solitary. Extensive backmatter features more facts about migration, a paragraph of further information about each animal, some activity ideas from the author including another example of creative-nonfiction writing and a list of resources for learning more about the animals presented. A solid introductory look at animal migration in a form that the youngest readers will appreciate.
–Kirkus Reviews (April 2010)
How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate
This clear, detailed explanation demonstrates that we know about climate change through research by scientists and students at home and in the field-patient observation and investigations that lead to information about Earth’s climate history. Environmentalist Cherry collaborates with photojournalist Braasch to distill the information in the latter’s adult Earth under Fire (2007), adding examples of young people whose participation in citizen science projects through their schools supports the ongoing work of documenting these changes. The topically organized text is informative and accessible, explicit in its message, positive in tone and particularly useful in its broad array of examples and suggestions for student involvement in both inquiry and solutions. Numerous small photographs show children and adults around the world, a wide range of affected wildlife and effects of climate change on the landscape. A lengthy “Resources” section includes both books and a variety of information and action sources with Internet addresses. The scientists whose work is described are listed in a separate index, identified by position. A must for school libraries, and science teachers may want copies of their own. (index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)
–Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2008) – Starred Review
If You Were My Baby: A Wildlife Lullaby
Gentle teaching, snuggling and playtime moments between wildlife mothers and their children are the highlight of Hodgkins’s offering. “If you were my baby beaver, I would show you how to build well, using branches, mud, and hard work.”A mother bat would snuggle her baby upside down, while a duck mom would paddle ahead of her ducklings, leading them. The final spread celebrates the fact that, “YOU are my baby,” and we can delight in nature’s wonders together. While meant to be a lullaby, not all of the animals’ interactions are sleep-inducing, nor is there a tune. Regardless, if the goal is to introduce a love of nature, this will do it. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and yet softly muted at the same time. The animals are center-stage, perfect for the youngest listeners. This is similar to Kate McMullan’s If You Were My Bunny (2003). Where this one is without the accompanying lullabies of the other, it makes up for it with the art.
–Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2005)
In the Trees, Honey Bees
Simple rhymes and striking full-bleed illustrations introduce the daily lives of honeybees to very young readers and listeners. Arbo’s detailed paintings show vistas of a bucolic farm visited by oversized honeybees, glorious flowers and close-ups of a hive inside a tree. . . .
–Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2009)
Mason and Welch present a story that folds in on itself and then out. Swirling colors and abstract spirals telescope from the universe, to the galaxy, to a valley and a village, to a home, a child’s bedroom, the child snuggled beneath a quilt, to the child’s own heart. With a quote from Einstein as its touchstone, the text opens into sweet rhythms: “Inside all / Is a universe / Energy flowing. / Inside the universe / Is a galaxy / Milky and glowing.” With richly colored mixed-media swirls that resolve into hills and trees, windows and bedrooms, each opening displays double-page, full-bleed pictures with a single white star superimposed throughout. The last line of each three-line text curves to echo the spiral motif. The images tend toward the abstract but are recognizable, creating a very gentle and quite moving bedtime story.
–Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2008)
Jo MacDonald Had a Garden
Quattlebaum and Bryant follow up their successful Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond (2011) with new lyrics to the same song, while keeping the nature focus.
This time, Jo MacDonald and her cousin Mike make a garden. From digging the earth and planting the seeds, to watering, harvesting and enjoying the “fruits” of their labors, the two care for their garden habitat and the animals that visit it. Readers can tend their own imaginary gardens along with the pair, as the illustrations and text suggest motions to accompany the familiar tune. Careful observers can track the new plants and animals that arrive with each page turn and read more about them in the backmatter, which also includes some garden facts and tips, comprehension questions, activity extension ideas and a list of resources for gardening information specifically geared toward children. Bryant’s watercolors reflect a childlike enthusiasm. . . This is likely to be a popular spring and garden story time choice. Get out the seed catalogs.
–Kirkus Reviews (January 4, 2012)
Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond
A sing-along inspired by the sights and sounds of a pond.
When Jo visits her grandfather’s farm, she observes the plants and animals she finds by the pond, sketching them so she can share them with Old MacDonald later. She first notices the reeds, and the sound they make: “Jo MacDonald saw a pond, / E-I-E-I-O. / And in that pond she saw some reeds, / E-I-E-I-O. / With a swish-swish here.” The familiar tune starts on page one and never misses a beat, begging kids to participate. Indeed, the rollicking atmosphere during a sharing of this book will likely be in marked contrast to what is happening inside it. As Jo settles in to watch, her quietness and stillness pay off as some animals gradually emerge: fish, frogs, ducks, a bird, a few coons, some deer and a dragonfly. Backmatter includes Jo’s final sketch (delightfully childlike) as well a paragraph about each animal, a list of books about ponds and some activities that can help youngsters be a naturalist like Jo. Observant readers will notice the clever design of the illustrations that hides the last-mentioned animal and the next one within the spread. Bryant’s softly colored watercolor creatures echo Jo’s rosy-cheeked childhood innocence and have just a touch of expression in their faces.
Sure to inspire a rousing storytime, this is also likely to encourage readers to explore the world around them.
–Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2011)
Molly’s Organic Farm
A small orange cat finds a new home on an organic farm, where she explores the farm world, helps with pest control and spends her winter warm and dry at the home of one of the farmers, in this book based on a true story.
The star of this appealing introduction to organic farming is a homeless cat that wandered into a northern California farm in 2005. She was adopted by the farmers and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) participants and was sheltered by the illustrator for several winters. Realistic watercolors provide a cat’s-eye view of the farm with its big brown farmer boots, its sheltering leaves and its interesting animal life. A simple text describing what she sees accompanies the full-page illustrations. A separate narrative, in rhymed couplets, is set on insets with close-ups of the green-eyed cat, sometimes zoomed in on a nose or tongue. The backmatter is frankly educational, providing further explanation of the major points: healthy soil and compost, beneficial bugs, companion planting, crop rotation, animal helpers, buying locally, community connections and, incidentally, city farms. There are additional descriptions of plant parts, life cycles and some further reading and teaching suggestions, as well as the story of the real-life Molly.
Pair this with Deborah Hodge and Brian Harris’ Up We Grow (2010) for two different visions of modern environmentally conscious farm life.
–Kirkus Reviews (January 18, 2012)
Over in the Arctic
Modeled after the traditional song “Over in the Meadow,” this (for the most part) easily chanted rhyme introduces a variety of land and sea animals and birds found in the tundra. Standard number-recognition and counting concepts are augmented by additional ideas and vocabulary in the active text, which highlights the Arctic climate, animal habits and the proper names for the animals’ young. “Over in the Arctic / Where some creatures migrate, / Lived a mother snow goose / And her little goslings eight. /’Honk,’ said the mother. / ‘We honk,’ said the eight. / So they honked and flew south / Where some creatures migrate.” Graceful, stylish cut-paper collages in a mixture of bright colors and patterns create icy backgrounds for each scene. Well-conceived extension ideas for curriculum and art connections follow a “hidden animal” game and a “Fact or Fiction” explanation about the rhyme’s tundra environment. A value-added exploration of the Arctic for preschoolers and early elementary-age children.
–Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2008)
Over In Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under
Berkes continues her series of wildlife books based on the popular tune “Over in the Meadow” with this work highlighting Australian animals and habitats (Over in the Arctic, 2008, etc.). Counting from one to 10, animals range from familiar koalas to the endangered, lesser-known bilby. Proper terms for offspring are italicized, while numbers are spotlighted with colored text, giving the song a decidedly informative feel. Also contributing to the educational element is the punchy vocabulary. How does a bilby behave? They “‘‘Slurp,’ said the mother. / ‘We slurp,’ said the nine. / So they slurped and they burped / In a sandy place to dine.” Brightly patterned and richly textured collage illustrations depict creatures in scenes that reflect their natural surroundings. Readers will greatly enjoy singing the tune as they learn about each animal. Extensive backmatter provides even more information about Australian wildlife, including animals hidden on every double-page spread that readers are encouraged to go back and find. The “Fact or Fiction” section describes what liberties the author took depicting the different animal families. Also included are educational and creative ideas from both author and illustrator, a simple, illustrated map, print and Internet resources as well as music, lyrics and chords for Over in Australia.
–Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2011)
Over in the Forest: Come & Take a Peek
Having already explored the ocean and jungle, planets, the Arctic and Australia, Berkes this time focuses her “Over in the Meadow”–derived lyrics on a temperate deciduous forest. Readers are treated to a look at a forest habitat and its more familiar denizens, including beaver, turkey, woodpecker and ’possum. As in her previous titles, there is a nice balance between math and the animal information. Berkes introduces children to the names given to baby forest animals, indicating them with italics—fawns, joeys, hatchlings, poults, chicks and kits. The number is set in a different color type, while the numeral is featured prominently at the bottom of the page. Dubin gives readers several opportunities to practice, illustrating both the baby animals and their tracks, both of which can be easily identified and counted. In addition, she hides another forest dweller on each page. Her paper-collage, colored-pencil and pastel artwork is filled with gorgeous textures that echo the natural world of the forest. Berkes rounds out the text with educational backmatter: a list of the hidden animals and a few facts, a section that reveals her artistic license, some forest facts, detailed paragraphs about each of the featured animals, the music and lyrics, notes from both the author and illustrator, activities to extend the book and resources for more information. . . . none can argue with the educational value, nor the fun—what will she tackle next?.
–Kirkus Reviews (January 4, 2012)
Take Me Home, Country Roads
Canyon has outdone himself in his second pairing with a John Denver tune, this one about returning home to the place of his roots.
A cast of wonderfully expressive characters journey day and night toward a reunion. Just as in real life, the family members are an interesting bunch, humorously reflected in the vehicles they are driving-a peace-sign-adorned Volkswagen van, a motorcycle, a station wagon towing a camper, a pickup truck, a camouflage-painted jeep and a fancy touring auto. The joyous reunion and its attendant feast and musical jam will have families itching to gather together. Canyon`s portrayal of the song`s West Virginia mountains and countryside as a quilt is inspired. Painting on textured paper and including every detail, right down to the stitches between the differently patterned “fabrics” making up the fields, mountains and trees, even hardcore quilters might be fooled into thinking this was the work of a needle and thread.
–Kirkus Review (October 1, 2005)
There’s a Babirusa in my Bathtub
A baker’s dozen of exotic animals are introduced in this intriguing title. Organized alphabetically from babirusa to Tasmanian devil, each double-page spread features a poem, a short expository text, a “fabulous fact” and a striking painting that includes a hidden object or objects mentioned in the poem or text. . .
–Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2009)