April 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Wild Things! | SLJ Spotlight

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No matter the season, no matter where one lives, there are innumerable opportunities for kids to interact with the natural world and be introduced to some of its varied and colorful flora and fauna. Whether large or infinitesimally tiny, predators or helpful plants and creatures, all offer something to stimulate the senses and secrets to be discovered. Just walk outside, take some time, and be as quiet as possible. The wild will come to you!

redstarGodwin, Laura. Owl Sees Owl. illus. by Rob Dunlavey. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553497823. Owl Sees Owl by Laura Godwin

PreS-Gr 1 –“Soar/Glide/Swoop/Swoosh.” A young owlet leaves his nest one night for a solo adventure—and, by the light of the moon, sees his reflection in the water. “Owl/Sees/Owl.” Startled, he makes his way back home, where he finds safety in the comfort of his nest. “Sister/Brother/Mama/Home.” With only a few words per page, this poetic picture book is inspired by reverso poetry. Words that lead up to Owl seeing himself in the water are rearranged as he returns home. The mirroring of repetitive, rearranged text, coupled with tranquil, mostly blue watercolor and mixed-media illustrations, makes for a meditative and soothing experience for all readers. This is an ideal storytime choice for very young children because of the large print and thoughtful placement of text; basic words and concepts make this an obvious selection for early literacy enthusiasts. Fans of the author’s previous work One Moon, Two Cats will once again appreciate her introspective yet economical use of words to convey exploration and peacefulness. Fans of Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon and Martin Waddell’s Owl Babies will also love this calming story about an owl’s first adventure. VERDICT Those who enjoy poetry and picture books will find quiet contemplation in this obvious choice that will appeal to any audience.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

Lloyd, Megan Wagner. Finding Wild. illus. by Abigail Halpin. 32p. Knopf. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101932810. Finding Wild

K-Gr 2 –Inspiring children to claim the “wild” where they can find it, this notable debut is a paean to the beauty, fun, and relevance of the natural world. Emerging from the subway, two children travel through fields, forests, mountains, and meadows, exploring the many pleasures to be found outdoors. Evocative language encourages the use of all five senses when journeying through the landscape. “Wild is full of smells—fresh mint, ancient cave, sun-baked desert, sharp pine, salt sea. Every scent begging you to drink it in.” City dwellers are emboldened to seek out and investigate nature hiding amid the buildings and streets, as the children return home and discover an urban oasis. Multitextured digitally finished watercolor and pencil illustrations portray the varieties of nature, from a tiny sprout and shiny spiderweb to a lakeside trail and a pack of baying wolves. Colorful spreads provide space to feel the grandeur of the environment. VERDICT In an age when children spend less and less time outside, this ode to the wonder of the natural world is a step in the right direction. Perfect for a city-critters or nature unit.–Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Pak, Kenard. Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn. illus. by Kenard Pak. 32p. Holt. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627794152. Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by K. Pak

PreS-Gr 1 –A girl wearing a red scarf greets a nippy late summer morning. The child wanders through woods, by a creek, and across farmland and finally arrives in town, encountering all sorts of flora and fauna along the way. She greets everyone in a friendly tone, saying hello to trees, blue jays, foxes, distant thunder, breezy wind, and the approaching chill in the air. In the end, returning home, it’s “Goodbye, summer…Hello autumn!” Short sentences are positioned over the pictures. The spare text and muted watercolor illustrations blend perfectly to create a feeling of wonder at the change of seasons. This is an upbeat look at the promise of fall’s glories. VERDICT A gentle, gorgeous welcome to summer’s end and fall’s beginning, perfect for storytime or one-on-one reading.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

redstarStringer, Lauren. Yellow Time. illus. by Lauren Stringer. 40p. S. & S./Beach Lane. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481431569. Yellow Time by L. Stringer

PreS-Gr 2 –Stringer re-creates those last days of autumn when the trees are no longer putting on a fiery show of colors and the leaves are one gusty day away from shuddering to the ground. Short, declarative, yet lyrical sentences set the stage (“The squirrels are too busy to notice, and the geese have already gone.”). Stringer continues to remind readers of the sounds (“Crows love yellow time. They fill still-leafy trees with their voices announcing its coming…”) and the smells (“wet mud and dry grass with a sprinkle of sugar”) of autumn and discusses the changing of the seasons (“Yellow time comes before white time. Every time.”). When the wind begins, everyone is ready: the trees, the children, the crows, and even the busy squirrels that use the fallen leaves for their lofty nests. The watercolor and acrylic illustrations, subtly reminiscent of Lois Lenski’s work, are full of movement and emotion. Stringer’s rendering of the autumn landscape and its diverse inhabitants, round faces lifted to the sky, remind readers of a moment in time. VERDICT This gorgeous picture book is a fine addition to seasonal and classroom collections, but it stands alone for its language and deft artwork. A lovely, evocative read-aloud.–Lisa Lehmuller, Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School, Providence, RI

Thompson, Jolene. Faraway Fox. illus. by Justin Thompson. 32p. HMH. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544707115. Faraway Fox by J. Thompson

K-Gr 2 –Due to suburban sprawl, a young fox has been separated from others of his kind. Readers hear his thoughts about missing his mother’s advice and hunting skills, the games he played with his brother and sister, and the roaming he did with his father. All the while, he seems to be the only fox around and is navigating forlornly the human-made world that has grown up around him. Eventually, he notices a new kind of human development—a huge tunnel being built to connect the urban area with a wildlife preserve, which now allows him to reconnect with many other foxes. He is home again. This story would make a suitable read-aloud for young children, but it must be accompanied by an age-appropriate explanation of habitats. Factual information about special wildlife tunnels and bridges around the world and their importance in helping to minimize humans’ toll on habitat destruction is appended. The art is clear and spans spreads completely with colorful saturation. VERDICT A primary purchase where young naturalists abound.–Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID

These reviews were published in the School Library Journal July 2016 issue.

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.