November 24, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Perfect Summertime Picture Books | SLJ Spotlight

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Warm temperatures and extra-long days offer limitless opportunities for kids and their friends and families to have fun in the great outdoors. When nature calls, these adventurers don’t hesitate to answer. Even a bit of rain can’t dampen the spirits of these young revelers.

Chase, Kit. Charlie’s Boat. illus. by Kit Chase. 32p. (Playtime with Friends). Putnam. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399257025.

Toddler-PreS –Charlie, a rabbit, tries to fish with his friends in this latest in the series. Lulu, an owlet, and Oliver, an elephant, are fishing successfully, while Charlie struggles to catch anything but sticks. After collecting a pile of sticks, he opts to make a small raft instead. Charlie’s sweet friends join him in this new game and decide to have a boat race. Unfortunately, Charlie’s oversize boat comes in last, and he’s feeling down about being the worst at everything. But Oliver suddenly has an idea to highlight Charlie’s talent and skills. This gentle tale of friendship will help children realize that they don’t have to be perfect at everything and how important supportive friends can be. The pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations convey a softness that matches the text. VERDICT A great addition where the rest of the series is popular or for libraries that are looking to expand their friendship offerings.–Brooke Newberry, La Crosse Public Library, WI

redstarJackson, Richard. This Beautiful Day. illus. by Suzy Lee. 40p. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781481441391.

PreS-Gr 1 –A dark and stormy morning cannot dampen the spirits of three siblings in this ode to summer weather. The day begins with a song, a dance, and a skip as the kids splash through puddles and march through the neighborhood with friends. As the sky clears, the children delight in doing what children do: playing outdoors, expending energy, and reveling in the opportunity to freely enjoy the pleasures of the day. “This beautiful day…/so great for parading,/for cartwheeling fun/or hiding/and seeking/or gliding/and sliding/in this marigold sun.” Jackson’s spare poetic text expresses the many ways that spirited children play, while Lee’s marvelous pencil and acrylic illustrations adroitly create a sense of space, air, energy, and joy as the day progresses from gray to glorious. These children feel real, drawn with loose, sketchy lines that deftly depict movement and exuberance, with expressions to match. Finally, it’s time to sit down on a camp chair with a Popsicle. Who could ask for a more beautiful day? ­VERDICT An absolutely perfect book for summer read-alouds and interactive sharing.–Teri ­Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Pearson, Yvonne. Sadie Braves the Wilderness. illus. by Karen Ritz. 32p. Minnesota Historical Society. May 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781681340388.

PreS-Gr 2 –Young Sadie somewhat uneasily describes her family’s trip to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Superior National Forest and their four-day adventure there. After what she declares to be “a hundred hours” of driving past Lake Superior, then a hundred more continuing “deeper and deeper into the woods,” Sadie proclaims that her younger brother, Benjamin, is “very scared of the wilderness.” They all swim under a roaring waterfall, hike “a dark and twisting forest trail,” paddle their canoe on a lake past “a flying dinosaur” (a great blue heron), and are “trapped in [their] tent by a huge storm.” Through it all, Sadie encourages Benjamin by warning invisible bears to stay away and holding his hand and expressing her own fears. Large, realistic two-page watercolor scenes show trees, huge rocks, a cascading waterfall, and some indigenous birds and animals (moose, bullfrog, pileated woodpecker). Scattered throughout the pages are some small “photos” taken during the trip. VERDICT This brief introduction to a national park noted for its 1,200 miles of canoe routes and for offering serenity also demonstrates how easily a child’s fears of the unknown can be assuaged. Best shared one-on-one to give kids plenty of time to pore over the illustrations.–Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

redstarPendziwol, Jean E. Me and You and the Red Canoe. illus. by Phil. 32p. Groundwood. Aug. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554988471.

PreS-Gr 2 –Two siblings, a lush forest, a red canoe, and a love of adventure and exploration. These are the elements that Pendziwol weaves into this stunning book celebrating friendship across the backdrop of the Canadian landscape. Narrated by one of the boys, the story is structured into paragraphs arranged like poetry, with frequent use of rhymes and repetition that gives it an intriguing musical cadence. The text alternates between the pronouns “I,” “you,” and “we.” This rhythm animates the text effectively. The artistic nature of the text is rivaled by the stunning illustrations on wooden panels. Fine acrylic details bring the forest and its animals to life. The artwork is so striking that it will attract even very young children who may not engage with the text. VERDICT A true gem that invites contemplation and reflection in children, who are often too busy to notice the beauty of everyday life. Best shared one-on-one.–Katherine Hickey, Metropolitan Library System, Oklahoma City

Scanlon, Liz Garton. Another Way To Climb a Tree. illus. by Hadley Hooper. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626723528.

PreS-Gr 2 –Daredevils will cheer redheaded Lulu’s bravery. Clad in short overalls, she scales only the most challenging trees—those with the stickiest sap, the ones that catch kites, and even trees other kids fall out of. When Lulu is sick and confined to bed, she’s missed by the birds and trees, and she woefully watches the sun and moon take over her climbing routes. Lulu’s jealousy disappears when she discovers that the enormous shadow on her bedroom wall is of “the tallest, widest, biggest tree of all,” which she proceeds to climb, swing from, and hide in…with her imagination. Scanlon celebrates the simple pleasure of nature. Hooper’s relief prints use a soft palette and retro line figures, including Lulu’s white dog, who always tags along. Details such as Lulu clasping a teddy bear as she climbs and her laurel headband add charm. ­VERDICT The serene tone and pace cleverly balance the heroine’s restlessness. Introduce this for Earth Day, for Arbor Day, or with themes of imagination. A perfect choice for anyone stuck inside on a glorious day.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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