This charming picture book is all about the wonders of growing up. The story is told in a series of “If you were a…” statements, comparing a child’s development to the life cycles of animals and plants. As a mother and child watch falling acorns, the narrator relates an oak tree growing from a tiny acorn to a small child spreading her roots in the world. Later, a grandfather and his grandsons spot a deer with her fawns running through the woods. Just as a fawn’s first shaky steps develop into a sprint, the wobbly gait of a toddler becomes a confident stride. The delightful illustrations by Coleman are rendered digitally and are the winning elements of the book. For each animal or plant comparison, the child’s clothes take on that appearance. A girl is pictured wearing a green jumper with an orange shirt, mimicking the green shell and orange spots of a turtle, and the acorn watching child wears a beanie that resembles the nut’s cap. On the title page, there is an oak sapling, and on the last page, it has grown into a large tree.
THOUGHTS: While the comparisons in the text are a bit weak at times, the book’s drawings bring them to life. Children will enjoy listening to the story and poring over the details in the pictures. A supplemental purchase.
Heidicker, Christian McKay. Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City. Henry Holt and Company, 2021. 978-1-25018-144-2. 386 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.
O-370 only knows of life on the farm. The elder foxes tell him stories about wild foxes who have adventures beyond anything he can imagine. O-370 and his cousin, R-211 dream of having their own adventures like Mia and Uly, the foxes they hear about in the stories. Even though they want to have adventures, they also know that the farm is a good place for them. All the foxes who live here get food twice a day and have a warm place to sleep. Best of all, when they are done at the farm, they get to go to The Barn, a special place where foxes eat centipedes all day and play with all the foxes that have gone before them. One night, O-370 is desperate for an adventure and slips out of his cage to explore The Barn. What he discovers sends him running into the forest and to the edge of the nearby city. After meeting a group of tough city foxes, O-370 realizes he may not have the skills to survive away from the farm. O-370 decides he must use the strategies in the stories he heard as a young kit to survive in the city.
THOUGHTS: In the follow-up novel to Scary Stories for Young Foxes, author Heidicker follows a similar format. He intersperses the story of O-370 with an older fox storyteller who is relaying O-370’s story to kits. Fans of his first novel will be happy to see previous characters Mia, Uly, Beatrix Potter, and others make appearances throughout the book. This book is a great addition to middle grade libraries, especially for young fans of horror and animal stories.
Hansen, Grace. Asian Animals. Abdo, 2021. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6. 24 p. Grades K-2.
Bengal Tiger. 978-1-0982-0592-8. Giant Panda. 978-1-0982-0593-5. Great Hornbill. 978-1-0982-0594-2. Indian Cobra. 978-1-0982-0595-9. Pangolin. 978-1-0982-0596-6. Water Buffalo. 978-1-0982-0597-3.
The continent of Asia is home to many amazing and unique animals, six of which are featured in this new series for early readers from Abdo. Each oversize volume informs readers about the habitat, characteristics, and lifestyle of the spotlighted animal. This reviewer had the opportunity to read the volume on Giant Pandas. Each two-page spread of the volume featured a high-quality photo accompanied by corresponding text. Readers learn about the habitat of the giant panda, it’s diet of bamboo, how young are raised, and more. As with most Abdo titles, a code in the back of the book allows readers to access supplemental material (video, activities, and more) online.
THOUGHTS: This series is sure to hold appeal for primary readers. The oversize high-quality photos will be sure to engage the interest of even the casual animal fan. For libraries looking to expand their animal collections, this series featuring both common (tiger, panda) and unique (pangolin, water buffalo) animals merits consideration.
590s Animals Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD
Rowan-Zoch, Julie. I’m a Hare, So There! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021. 978-0-358-12506-8. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Don’t you dare call this hare a rabbit, not even a jackrabbit! He will quickly point out the key differences between species. But he may not notice the others around his desert landscape also could get confused with other related species, such as ground squirrel (not chipmunk) and tortoise (not turtle). When attacked by the approaching coyote (not jackal), the hare reaches his last straw. The story is simple yet educational, and the illustrations have plenty hidden in the Sonoran Desert for repeated viewing pleasure. There is a chart at the end showing other “similar but not the same” animals which could lead into a nice discussion (hopefully without any heated arguments!).
THOUGHTS: This would be a great opening for young students to research similar animals or animals in the desert biome. Also a simple lesson in identity and personality.
Picture Book Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD
Wedelich, Sam. Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf. Scholastic Press, 2021. 978-1-338-35900-8. 40 p. $17.99. Grades PreK-3.
Chicken Little is known for his exaggerations, so when he meets the Big Bad Wolf and learns that he isn’t so big and bad, just misunderstood, roles change as the other chickens in the coop fear the big, bad wolf. The chickens argue about defending their coop or flying away and decide the best thing to do is flee, but Chicken Little convinces them to stay and look at the facts. The chickens learn about the wolf and decide to stay and welcome him to their coop instead of judging him.
THOUGHTS: This is an adorable fractured fairytale combination of Chicken Little and The Three Little Pigs (albeit without the pigs). The story focuses on not judging something one does not understand, but instead, learn about it, and then make a decision about what to do. This is a welcome story and lesson for all ages on kindness and misjudgement. The words and illustrations are very cartoonish with lots of white space. Speech balloons are used throughout to add banter and snarkiness from the chickens (and laughter from the reader). This is a great addition to character education lessons and fairytale units.
Podesta, Lena. Too Crowded. Sourcebooks, 2021. 978-1-728-22238-7. 32 p. $17.99. Grades PreK-1.
Gil, a goldfish, feels crowded in his bowl with a plant, a castle, and 138 pebbles (that he cleans every day all by himself). When Gil bonks his nose on the side of his bowl, he decides he needs a new house; something bigger and roomier. He finds a bird’s nest which is nice and large, but the birds are too noisy. He finds Cat’s house which is quiet, but dangerous as Cat tries to get Gil. Finally, Gil finds Turtle’s house. Turtle questions why Gil is out in the air because fish “can’t breathe air, silly.” As Gil gulps for breath, Turtle gets help from their human to save him. Now, Gil is back in his small, cramped bowl, but it’s not so cramped anymore because it is now Turtle’s home too.
THOUGHTS: This is a delightful introduction for children to animal homes and understanding feelings of loneliness and friendship. Gil’s home is cramped because he is alone, but once Turtle joins him, their home is just right. Too Crowded may also translate for children expecting a new sibling because Gil finds joy in sharing his home and things with Turtle. The illustrations are bright and colorful. They are limited, as is the text, and utilize lots of white space. Details are especially fun throughout as Gil wears sneakers and has a bandage on his nose from where he hit the side of his bowl. One final note…Gil is not identified as he, she, or they in the text. As the reader, I identified Gil as a him, but others may identify Gil as she or they.
Barder, Gemma. Be a Pet Expert (series of 6). Crabtree, 2021. 32 p. $20.75 each. $124.50 Set of 6. Grades 3-6.
Be a Cat Expert. 978-0-778-78015-1. Be A Dog Expert. 978-0-778-78016-8. Be a Hamster & Guinea Pig Expert. 978-0-778-78017-5. Be a Horse & Pony Expert. 978-0-778-78018-2. Be a Rabbit Expert. 978-0-778-78019-9. Be a Reptile Expert. 978-0-778-78020-5.
These books provide helpful information, facts, and pet care tips for a variety of animals. Many photos, text boxes, and checklists help readers to learn more about the animals and consider them as pets. A flowchart guides readers through yes/no questions to determine what type best suits their personalities. Placing hamsters and guinea pigs in the same book will help readers to differentiate the two. Each book surprises readers with some interesting facts even on ‘well-known’ pets. For instance, no two dogs have the same noseprint; cats cannot taste sweet foods; horses and ponies have the largest eyes of any mammals on land; and rabbits can sleep with their eyes open.
THOUGHTS: These helpful books shed a positive yet truthful light on pets, which will appeal to pet-owners and animal lovers alike.
630s Domesticated Animals, Pets Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Barnham, Kay. World of Wonder (series of 4). Illustrated by Maddie Frost. Crabtree, 2021. 32 p. $20.75 ea. $83.00 Set of 4. Grades K-2.
Amazing Animal Babies. 978-0-778-78247-6. The Awesome Night Sky. 978-0-778-78276-6. Incredible Rain Forests. 978-0-778-78248-3. A Wonderful World of Weather. 978-0-778-78246-9.
Barnham and Frost team up wonderfully with text and pictures suitable for the K-2 crowd. Each book focuses on one aspect of nature or science, acting as a pleasant introduction to the topic for beginners. Each book keeps a positive tone about ecology, learning and exploring, offering two-page spreads with a paragraph of text on each page. It’s just enough information, and may leave curious readers questioning; be prepared with answers to “what’s that animal?,” “where does the sky end?,” “why do some babies stay with their moms and some don’t?,” or “how many constellations are there?” Two friendly children (one white, one slightly darker-skinned) and a black dog appear throughout the books, learning with the reader. The books close with Things To Do (three ideas such as inventing your own animal, creating a word cloud (each book), or designing a weather board game), Learning More (book and online resources), and Glossary (7-9 words used in text).
THOUGHTS: A solid choice for introducing astronomy, weather, rain forest and animal babies to young readers.
Science (520, 551, 577, 591) Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
What do you do when you find a stray dog that is friendly, smart, but has no collar? While keeping the dog may be what you want, is it the best choice to make? Maddie makes this discovery when she finds a lost dog she calls Boyd. While she wants to keep Boyd, her mother has her take Boyd to Animal Rescue Friends, an animal sanctuary. There, Maddie will find a place for Boyd, a new job for her helping animals, and even may make a friend or two!
THOUGHTS: This Epic! Original book follows several kids who all help or rescue animals in some way! This book is for the pet lovers of the world, with relatable situations, all presented in a fun comic-book style format.
Why Can’t Horses Burp? 2021. 978-0-500-65230-5.
Why Do Cats Meow? 2020. 978-0-500-65238-1. Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms? 2020. 978-0-500-65202-2.
Have you ever wondered why horses can’t burp? Or maybe you are curious about the different types of horses, the color of a horse’s hair, mane, or tail, or even where a horse came from. This book will answer all of those curious questions you may have about one of your favorite pets and animals: a horse! Filled with information by horse expert Dr. Nick Crumpton, many of those captivating and curious questions you have can be answered in this illustrated, yet humorous, book!
THOUGHTS: Horses are the favorite animal of many readers, and this book is an excellent choice for elementary and middle school readers. As a librarian, I learned a lot about horses that I did not know! Readers will enjoy this book and be drawn in with the curious questions about horses!