A Walk in the Woods | New Books for Young Readers

From "a picture book that doubles as a love letter to the forest ecosystem" to a scenic guide to trees, these books are the perfect preamble to a walk in the woods.

As you and your students embark on nature studies, or prepare to take a stroll through the woods, be sure to add these recently published books to your classroom shelves. In addition to sparking kids' curiosity about the world around them, a walk in the woods has documented emotional benefits.

CASANOVA, Mary. Hush Hush, Forest. illus. by Nick Wroblewski. 40p. University of Minnesota Pr. Sept. 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780816694259.
PreS-Gr 2–Bold woodcuts limn the cyclical text as the woodland season turns from fall to winter, captured in amber, gold, pale sage, and light cerulean with black accents. Leaves swirl in the wind, birds set off on southward courses, bears slip into comfy dens, and the rest hunker down for a cold, dark season. Casanova’s simple lyrical language cups the annual change in few well-chosen words, leaving a parent and child in cozy, indoor sleep as winter’s first snow coats the ground. Strong illustrations and a carefully crafted text illuminate a forest habitat as the seasons change. VERDICT A lovely choice for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

GAMBLIN, Kate Moss. Forest. illus. by Karen Patkau. 24p. (See to Learn). further reading. Groundwood. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554988792.
Gr 1-5–Drawing on her doctoral research in sustainability and her international teaching experiences, Gamblin has written a picture book that doubles as a love letter to the forest ecosystem. The gentle second-person narration is intimate and conversational: every page begins with the question, “Do you see?”pulling readers and listeners into the world of the forest, where they might encounter “the swoop of the swallow in flight” or “the delicious sunlight, giving way to the soft darkness of night.” With reading suggestions for young and older readers, this beautiful nonfiction picture book will be a useful jumping-off point for inquiry and land-based pedagogy. The illustrations are lush and patterned, and the rich interplay between the text and images allows for this story to work well for read-alouds and silent reading. VERDICT A strong purchase for schools and libraries to encourage connection with the natural world.–Jen McConnel, Queen’s University, Ont.

GHOLZ, Sophia. The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng. illus. by Kayla Harren. 32p. glossary. Sleeping Bear. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781534110243.
Gr 1-5–“In India, on a large river island, among farms and families hard at work, there lived a boy who loved trees.” Prompted by the alarming death of hundreds of snakes stranded on a barren sandbar when he was just a boy, Jadav went to the elders of his village. They explained that the floodwaters cause erosion, which gradually shrinks the island, leaving animals homeless and stranded, like the snakes. The village gave young Jadav 20 bamboo saplings to plant. Not only did he plant the trees, he also devised a watering system and created richer soil, eventually planting more than 1,300 acres of trees. Soon, birds, snakes, rhinos, and elephants returned. When tigers appeared, threatening the villagers, Jadav planted more grasses to attract small animals to appease them. When elephants ventured onto village farms to eat their crops, he planted fruit trees to satisfy them. His understanding of ecology and human responsibility make him a hero. His decision to make a difference as a child will empower young readers. An author’s note, glossary, and instructions on planting are included. Lush, realistic illustrations document young Jadav’s sadness, fear, determination, and eventual success as readers watch the barren, disintegrating island transform into a living forest supporting all manners of life. VERDICT An inspirational read-aloud for units on plants, the environment, or Earth Day.–Barbara Auerbach, Cairo Public Library, NY

HICKMAN, Pamela. Nature All Around: Trees. illus. by Carolyn Gavin. 32p. diag. glossary. index. Kids Can. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781771388047.
Gr 3-5–In this nonfiction installment, Hickman and Gavin present a scenic picture book about trees in the United States and Canada. This picture book is similar to a guidebook, breaking down scientific facts about each tree and allowing readers to see each piece that makes a tree grow with realistic watercolor and goauche diagrams. From the sprouting of a seed to a tree’s life throughout the seasons, children are shown every aspect of trees in great, colorful detail. The book offers a table of contents, activities throughout, a glossary, and an index. Although the amount of information can be overwhelming, the facts are broken down into paragraphs and bullet points for older readers, while the beauty of the illustrated diagrams and activities will engage younger readers too. VERDICT Classroom teachers, school librarians, and fans of Hickman’s previous books will enjoy this lovely, informative volume.–Hilary Tufo, Columbus Metropolitan Library-Reynoldsburg

KOCH, Melissa. Forest Talk: How Trees Communicate. 96p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Lerner. Mar. 2019. lib. ed. $37.32. ISBN 9781541519770.
Gr 4-8–Though some humans (like the Mbuti Pygmies in the Democratic Republic of Congo) respect and treasure the gifts of trees, overall deforestation is increasing worldwide. Koch (3D Printing: The Revolution in Personalized Manufacturing) covers tree basics (types, anatomy) and details how trees fit into the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and the ways they contribute to a healthy environment. Koch includes research on “mother trees,” the mycorrhizal network some trees use for communication, and new discoveries about life in the forest canopy. The final chapter outlines next steps students can take to help forests survive, so that shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing” (immersing oneself among trees to renew body and mind) will continue to be an option for all. Clear photos and graphics enhance understanding, and source notes, a glossary, a selected bibliography, further information, and an index make this helpful for study. Scientist profiles highlight some of the researchers whose works appear in the book. VERDICT Outdoorsy readers of all types will enjoy this title. A good choice for ecology units, science classes, and budding scientists as well.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

LEBEUF, Darren. My Forest Is Green. illus. by Ashley Barron. 32p. Kids Can Pr. Apr. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781771389303.
PreS-Gr 1–A young artist presents a close-up analysis of an urban forest in this colorful examination of the outdoors through various art media. He explores and depicts elements on the ground that are tall and short, textures that are fluffy and prickly, and the varying colors seen from an aerial outlook on a high-rise terrace. The images glow through cut-paper collage shapes, leaf prints, and watercolor, acrylic paint, and crayon hues that imitate nature from seed pods to bark. The boy investigates ants on the ground, wide and narrow trees, heavy and light rocks, dense and “sparse” bushes. Rain, snow, “scattered and soggy, and spotty and foggy.” Vibrant color and an endless list of adjectives shape the description of both large vistas and small scenes from the forest floor. “My forest sings and dances” with visual suggestions and a lyrical text for the young artist uncovering nature through multiple art media. VERDICT A lovely celebration of all things green, this is a suggested general purchase; especially suited for budding artists and young nature lovers.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

WALDEN, Libby. In Focus: Forests. 28p. Tiger Tales. Mar. 2019. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781944530228.
Gr 4-6–Forests are some of the most important and diverse landscapes on planet Earth. Libby Walden has compiled a wealth of information about forests of all kinds into this book, each of which is presented in two to three sentences. From rainforests to kelp forests to forest lore, nearly every component of forest existence is considered, and nearly every reader will come away with something new. Built as the equivalent of a coffee table book for children, its heft and design make this a book that is best digested over several readings instead of being read in its entirety at once. Ten illustrators bring these locales to life, each one creating four pages that fold out from two, making the book twice as large. The detail of each illustration is compelling and begs careful study. Animals, plants, and general statistics (in standard and in metric) all find a place in this book, as does a reminder to readers of the importance of these natural spaces and what humans can do to ensure their survival. Beautifully designed, this eye-catching book will encourage curious minds to select it from a shelf. The binding, however, may not support the weight of the book over repeated readings. VERDICT An excellent classroom text to support curriculum about forests and inspire further study.–Mary Lanni, Denver Public Library

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