Lai, Remy. Star the Elephant. Henry Holt and Co., 2022. 978-1-250-78499-5. 112 p. $13.99. Grades 2-5.
Author/illustrator Remy Lai opens a new series, Surviving the Wild, with the tale of Star the Elephant. Five-year old Star is growing up under the watchful eyes of his mother, aunt (the matriarch), and extended herd. When food becomes scarce, Star’s mom and auntie decide to search for a new home. After a long swim they reach an island with plenty to eat but also the troubling presence of humans. While attempting to escape from two men, Star becomes separated from his family. Fortunately for Star, these humans are working diligently to make the world safer for elephants, and the story ends on a hopeful note. “The True Story Behind Star’s Adventure,” which closes out this early reader graphic novel, includes tips to help protect elephants’ habitat from deforestation. Remy Lai fills every page with colored pencil lines depicting equatorial foliage, a handful of people, and (of course) the incredible elephants!
THOUGHTS: The Surviving the Wild series continues with Rainbow the Koala and Sunny the Shark (both 2022). Between the adorable animals and their sometimes fraught adventures, readers will tear through these!
Assarasakorn, Michele, and Nathan Fairbairn. PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together. Razorbill, 2022. 978-0-593-35186-4. 176 pp. $12.99. Gr. 3-6.
Fifth grader Gabby and her best friends, sixth graders Mindy and Priya, absolutely love animals, but none of them can have a pet due to parental preferences, landlord policies, and allergies. Longing for some furry friends in their lives, the three girls form PAWS: Pretty Awesome Walkers, and begin walking a small group of neighborhood dogs. They face a series of obstacles in the process of building their after-school business. Some are humorous – who will pick up the dog poop? should they wear matching uniforms? – while others stem from the girls’ different goals for PAWS, varying commitment levels, and lack of communication. Gabby especially feels like she is always out-voted by her slightly older, sometimes bossier friends. All three girls learn from their mistakes and Gabby does, indeed, get it together!
THOUGHTS: PAWS is essentially a Baby-Sitters Club for animal-loving tweens; the next installment, due in November, will focus on Mindy. Sunny artwork, friend and family dynamics, and plenty of adorable pups lend broad appeal to this graphic novel series starter.
Bayly, Sami. A Curious Collection of Dangerous Creatures. The Experiment, 2021. 978-1-615-19824-5. 125 p. $18.95. Grades 3-8.
Dangerous…it’s a word that evokes feelings of fear and terror in many individuals. While animals considered or called dangerous can pose some level of threats to humans, they are often misunderstood. Author and illustrator Sami Bayly spotlights some of these creatures and explores how they have adapted to ward off predators with amazing (and yes, dangerous) defense mechanisms. For example, the greater slow loris (a small, tree-dwelling primate native to some countries in Asia), produces toxins in its elbow glands. If you see it licking its armpit/elbow area, watch out! It’s collecting venom that mixes with saliva to create a toxic bite. The geography cone snail lives near coral reefs in the Pacific. From the outside, it looks like a beautiful seashell, but inside lives the world’s most venomous sea snail. One shot of the snail’s venom can kill up to 15 people! These are just two of the 60 creatures profiled in this engaging title. Each entry defines the danger profile for the animal, as well as identifying their habitat, eating habits and conservation status. Particularly noteworthy are Byly’s illustrations. Trained as a natural history illustrator, her detailed watercolor paintings are true works of art and bring the animals to life. Note: A Curious Collection of Dangerous Creatures was previously published in Australia under the title The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals.
THOUGHTS: This fantastic title will give readers a new appreciation and respect for the ways animals have adapted to survive. Ideal for casual browsers or researchers, readers will find themselves engrossed by the interesting facts presented about each animal and the detailed illustrations.
Jenkins, Steve, & Robin Page. The Shark Book. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021. 33 p. 978-1-328-56949-3. $17.99. Grades K-2.
The Shark Book features information about various types of sharks, some living and some extinct, all throughout the world. The book goes into detail about the different parts of a shark, how sharks are born, what sharks eat, and much more! At the end of the book, there is a table that goes over more information about each individual shark, including their conservation status. The book also includes a bibliography as well. The illustrations are wonderfully done and add so much to the book as the reader goes through. There is enough information to entice a reader who wants to learn more about sharks, as well as enough unique information for someone who knows a lot about sharks.
THOUGHTS: This is a wonderful nonfiction book about sharks that is a great addition to any elementary school collection.
597.3 Sharks Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Messner, Kate. Over and Under the Canyon. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-452-16939-2. 56 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.
Discover the wonders of a desert ecosystem in the newest edition of Kate Messner’s ecology-based Over and Under series. This story is about one family’s hike through a real-world desert habitat. Messner’s book Over and Under the Canyon aligns perfectly with national science standards with excellent and amazing facts about the animals, wildlife, and wonders that inhabit the desert world. With colorful and vivid illustrations by award-winning artist Christopher Silas Neal, this picture book is undoubtedly driven by an engaging narrative packed with STEM content. In addition, the content within the story provides many opportunities to discuss the importance of natural habitats and ecosystems and how to preserve our natural wonders. As a result, readers will be engaged in every page turn.
THOUGHTS: Science-loving readers will want to explore this fact-filled story about animals and wildlife. Curiosity may grow with each page, and educators will be able to dive into the well-researched content. Messner’s other books in this series include: Over and Under the Pond and Over and Under the Rainforest. Add this gorgeous book to your science collection!
Morales weaves English and Spanish text together to create a heartwarming tale of a young fawn and her mother. As narrator, the doe speaks to her child as they explore the Southwestern desert landscape. She tells her cosita (little thing) that she is a bright star and that she loves her. After hearing a loud sound, the fawn becomes frightened and the mother cautions her to be alert and find a safe space. In soothing tones, the deer comforts her anxious daughter and reminds her that she will never be alone and will always be protected. The illustrations are done in a variety of media, including embroidery, and reveal a few causes of her fear-a snake, a leopard, a cloud of dust, and a wall. In the author’s note, Morales explains that she began this book in 2019 after observing migrants being detained after attempting to cross the border and how the environment was being destroyed by the wall’s construction. Morales’ drawings are a showcase of the flora and fauna of the area, such as a hummingbird, a scorpion, and saguaro cacti, which in one spread are cut down into pieces. The author connects the disruption of the lives of the plants and animals to the disrupted lives of migrants and inhabitants of the region. This is shown in the final pages by the images of children wearing shirts with animal designs and surrounded by desert plants. This story conveys a message of reassurance and hope during anxious times.
THOUGHTS: Morales’ art is beautiful, and the renderings of the animals, especially the fawn, are charming. Young children will enjoy looking at the creatures and will find comfort in this story. It also could be useful in ecology units. A strong purchase for elementary libraries.
Thermes, Jennifer. Horse Power: How Horses Changed the World. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-419-74945-2. $18.99. Grades 2-5.
For thousands of years, horses have worked, played, and lived side-by-side with humans. Throughout time, the use of a horse has evolved and adapted with the increase in life and technology of the human race. Horses have been used for farming, transporting people and goods, and entertainment. As the world has changed and evolved, horses have moved throughout six different continents, ranging in a variety of species, showing the true power of a horse.
THOUGHTS: A picture-book set-up of the history of horses throughout time. This book, meant for elementary readers, provides illustrations, labels, and interesting facts that explain how horses have helped mankind.
Sloth and Lemur find a cake. A big, beautiful cake. Three layers. Pink icing. Sprinkles. A candle on top. This calls for a party! But whom should they invite? Elephant? Tiger? Peacock? Unicorn or the ants? Each possibility is quickly struck down, inevitably leaving only Sloth and Lemur to eat the cake. But what happens when Tiger comes looking for her birthday cake, only to find an empty plate and two slightly nauseous friends? Those familiar with Jon Klassen’s “Hat” books won’t be surprised at Tiger’s solution. Astute readers may clue in early on the mystery of who owns the cake if they notice the black and orange striped candle on the top. The delightfully whimsical illustrations make this perfect for a read aloud, and small listeners will no doubt be squirming with giggly anticipation, as they wait to see what goes wrong when Sloth and Lemur don’t share their bounty. The book could be used as a segue to a discussion on sharing, or for just plain fun.
THOUGHTS: This smile-inducing book is perfect for libraries serving young patrons.
Johnson, Terry Lynn. Rescue at Lake Wild. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 978-0-358-33285-9. 181 p. $16.99. Grades 3-6.
Madi, who idolizes Jane Goodall, loves rescuing injured wild animals. She learned how to rehabilitate animals from her beloved Nana, who died four years ago, and is determined to follow in her footsteps. Madi’s parents, however, have had enough of her exploits and forbid her to bring any more animals home. But when Madi and her two best friends, Jack and Aaron, find a pair of dead beavers that have been shot, they investigate the beaver dam and find two orphaned beaver pups. Madi vows to save the pups, parental restrictions notwithstanding, and Jack, a future game warden, sees a mystery to be solved. The three 12-year-olds proceed, despite all common sense, to try to hide the beaver pups from Madi’s mom, track down why the beavers are provoking animosity in the town, and discover who is killing them. Johnson (Ice Dogs and others) scores again with this book for younger readers. The mystery provides a plot, but the heart of the story is Madi’s love of animals. Her struggles to raise the pups with the skills necessary to return to the wild make for fascinating reading, and readers will learn much about beavers, and wildlife rehabilitation. Madi is creative, inventive, and determined to do the right thing, even though she ends up making a huge personal sacrifice. Madi and Aaron are white, Jack, on the book cover, appears to have darker skin.
Dapier, Jarrett, and Andrea Tsurumi, illustrator. Mr. Watson’s Chickens. Chronicle Books, 2021. 9781452177144. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Mr. Watson and Mr. Nelson live in a big house with a small yard that’s home to two dogs, three cats, and a handful of chickens. Mr. Watson loves his chickens, but when their numbers grow to 456 even he must admit that things are getting out of hand. One, Aunt Agnes, even has her own song and warbles it nonstop! The pair packs up and heads for the county fair to find loving homes for their chicks, but not before further hijinks ensue. One action-packed illustration offers a fun Where’s Waldo vibe as readers hunt for Aunt Agnes on the fair’s bandstand.
THOUGHTS: This wonderfully inclusive picture book will delight young readers with the chickens’ escapades and bright colors! Mr. Watson’s Chickens also could serve as a gentle introduction to a life cycle or animal care unit.