Posts Tagged ‘science’
Tuesday, September 4th, 2012
UnBEElievables: honeybee poems and paintings
by Douglas Florian (Beach Lane Books)
This volume contains poems that often burst with humor, puns, alliteration, and rhyme. Each poem is accompanied by a nugget of scientific fact and faces a page of bees with attitude, sometimes wearing fancy hats or jewelry. Many poems feature different bees, including queens, workers, scouts, and drones. Other poems focus on life cycles, pollination, the recent disappearance of bees, and beekeepers. We learn a lot, and with pleasure in the inventive language and simple, funny paintings with lots of green and gold, which are sometimes amid collage and rubber stamp work. Further reading is suggested at the end, along with a BEEbliography.
Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature
by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mark Hearld (Candlewick)
Outside Your Window is a tall, wide book organized by the seasons. It’s packed with short entries of encounters with flowers, trees, and animals. It’s written by a zoologist, but one who tried to remember and convey what she marveled at when five or six years old, and succeeds in providing a tone of simplicity and wonder. We get poems recording encounters in the wild, suggestions for outdoor activities, even an occasional recipe. Entries for spring give us pond sounds, dandelions, seeds, compost, and nests. Summer takes us to hayfields and tide pools, as well as suggestions of ways to enjoy a den. Autumn emphasizes the pleasures of falling leaves, wind, and migrating geese. The colors of winter turn more subdued, but we see the glories of the particular shapes of trees, and the treasures to be found in the night sky or on a quiet beach. And there are those birds to feed, along with suggestions for feasts.
Mark Hearld brilliantly uses mixed media, giving us a sense of bright retro aprons or wallpaper here and there, but always with motion: wind feels ever-present. Each flower and bird — and their nests, eggs, and perches — is unique and compelling.
Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
Step Gently Out
by Helen Frost, photographs by Rick Lieder (Candlewick)
“Step gently out,” is the first line of the book, and we see the elegant legs of a praying mantis maneuvering his way across daisies. The colors and fuzz of a caterpillar, photographed close up, stun as we’re asked to watch a single blade of grass. Ant, honeybee, cricket, moth, and spider are shown larger than life, photographed as gently, it seems, as the stepping: background is put into soft focus, which gives a sense of an observer willing to just watch. The short single poem carries us into dusk, then another morning. An afterword with more photographs tells us more about the small, amazing creatures.
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Ten Little Caterpillars by Bill Martin Jr., illustrated by Lois Ehlert (Beach Lane Books)
As they did in Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom, Martin and Ehlert combine their talents to provide children with another delightful tale that cries out to be read aloud. These 10 caterpillars are on the move: the first, crawling into a bower, the second, wriggling up a flower, the sixth, carried off to school, and the tenth, scaling an apple tree. Sumptuous illustrations describe their destinations with one, readers will discover, becoming a butterfly. An imaginative, lilting tale for those just learning to count and for those already accomplished — the rhyme, the rhythm, and the journeys will be a most entertaining trip. In addition, Ehlert cleverly winds a botany lesson into a pictorial narrative.
On shelves August 30, 2011.
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Lois Ehlert is this year’s Carle Honors Artist recipient! Click here to learn more about Lois Ehlert and The Carle Honors. Want more recommendations from The Carle Bookshop? Click here to read for Top of the Shelf book reviews.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F. Yezerski (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011)
Good research, gorgeous illustration, and a perfect pace and tone come together in this hopeful story about changes over time in 20,000 acres of New Jersey wetlands. The book opens with a map giving the Meadowlands its context in relation to parts of New York, New Jersey, and the Atlantic. We then get just slightly closer to the area with a view over the Empire State Building toward what many think of as “smelly swamps” or just the location of an airport. We move back in time to when the Lenni Lenape hunted and gathered food. Some of what they found is illustrated in the margins, while on the following full page spread, we see changes made by incoming Europeans and some of what they brought. Pen and ink and watercolors are done with a sure hand that evidences the creator’s love of a place where he ran and canoed.
Without needing much commentary, the next illustrations show changes brought by twentieth century traffic and garbage dumps, then choices about how to handle the way they affected the wetlands. We learn a bit of science about how marshes can be revived, seeing how lessening pollution brings more oxygen, which helps bacteria in the water “mix into a nutritious soup for snails, worms, and insects.” Fish return, along with frogs, turtles, and crabs, then birds, including sandpipers, ducks, egrets, cranes, and ospreys. Thanks are given to “the Meadowlands’ most powerful species — humans” for making these changes possible, and the story ends with a girl on a class trip to a salt marsh, one of the many to help raise awareness about pollution and how it can be turned around.
We learn more about the changes over time in the Author’s Note. The bibliography includes Lynne Cherry’s A River Ran Wild, which focuses on the Nashua River in New England, and like this book, eloquently addresses changes over vast amounts of time, and uses artwork in the margins to develop the scope of an important and hopeful story. They make the reader want to turn back the pages and start again, finding more details to cherish.
Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
With a few words and riveting ink and watercolor drawings, this small picture book tells the story of the childhood dream that led Dr. Jane Goodall to Africa to study chimpanzees. We see young Jane holding a stuffed chimpanzee in scenes based upon the scientist’s childhood recollections. She loved reading Tarzan of the Apes. She snuck into a henhouse to patiently wait for the moment when a creature broke through a shell.
Besides the expressive drawings, nineteeth century prints give a faint background to some pages, suggesting a bygone era when naturalists more often worked from outdoor observation, before our era in which the unseen underlies much scientific training. We also see sketches Jane made for a club she formed called “The Aligator Society.” There’s a beautiful rhythm within sentences and between the pages that emphasize close looking, wonder, and a connection between people and nature. I love the two-page spread where Jane lies in the grass delighting in the sky, watched by curious chickens. She climbs trees with un-awkward reverence.
The story is of a child, though the book ends with a photograph of the ground-breaking scientist reaching for the hand of a chimpanzee. In addition to the useful afterword, I would have liked to see at least a page suggesting the years of work between a young girl’s dreams and its realization, but it’s a small quibble. Me…Jane is a charming introduction to a wise and great-hearted scientist, and, really, why shouldn’t every child with a cherished stuffed chimpanzee become a primatologist, or at least find her own way to help save the world?
Pick up a copy of Me…Jane and read more Top of the Shelf recommendations.
Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
Hatch! written and illustrated by Roxie Munro (Marshall Cavendish, 2011)
Don’t let the five-letter title splashed across eggs and a duckling on the cover lead you to think this book is small. The oversized picture book will spread nicely across laps or hold up well in story hour, where children will enjoy the guessing game structure. With every turn of a page, we see an egg — plain, spotted, white, or colored — and are given clues about who might be in it. The following pages are sure to be pored over with detailed illustrations of the bird, its family, and habitat, including images of nests and suggestions of food sources and predators. Of course it’s a great book for spring, but can be used anytime to learn about varieties of birds from around the world: birds that we learn can be much taller than a person, or fit in a palm, or which can fly eight miles high or migrate 25,000 miles in a year. Readers interested in learning even more about incubation, parenting styles, flight, and birdcalls can use the bibliography and glossary (“fun bird words to learn”) in the back.
Pick up a copy of Hatch! or read more Top of the Shelf book reviews.
Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Ubiquitous (like our previous Top of the Shelf book, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, also by Joyce Sidman) also features poems grounded in science, though with a personal take, and again with nonfiction sidebars offering more information. Here the subject is evolution, and I particularly like the endpapers Prange made from long winding string to illustrate the ages of life forms. Humans are on the short end of time, with coyotes, dandelions, crows, sharks, lichens, and — the winner by a long stretch — bacteria showing their survival skills. We get poetry about many of these and others — including the gecko featured on the cover — that make us marvel as well as learn. Beautiful linocuts hand-colored with watercolor enhance the sense of wonder.
Click here to purchase or here to read more Top of the Shelf reviews.
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Joyce Sidman masterfully uses a variety of poetic forms to bring nights in the woods to readers who are cozy inside. Each poem is accompanied by a love-infused scientific description of the protagonist, which includes the owl of the title, a cricket, mushrooms, a bat, a spider, a porcupette, moths, snails, and an oak (from the sidebar accompanying the poem: “Although they don’t look it, trees — like most plants — are constantly busy.”) Rick Allen’s linoleum block prints hand colored with gouache are stunning. Children’s curiosity will be peaked to learn more about:
“The night’s a sea of dappled dark
the night’s a feast of sound and spark,
the night’s a wild enchanted park.”
ADDED: We are so pleased this book just won a 2011 Newbery Honor! It’s a rare and exciting treat indeed when a picture book text is recognized as being one of the year’s most distinguished contributions to American children’s literature. Congratulations Joyce Sidman!
Pick up a copy of Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night and read more Top of the Shelf book recommendations.