Kulekjian, Jessica. Before We Stood Tall. Kids Can, 2021. 978-1-525-30324-1. Unpaged. 19.99. Grades K-3.
Youngsters are sure to gravitate to this lovely picture book that presents a new spin on how a tree grows. Rather than show how an acorn becomes a mighty tree, Kulekjian reverses the process. Slowly, her impactful prose, paired with soft watercolor art by Madeline Kloepper, traces the mighty trees in the forest back to seeds in the earth. But the story doesn’t end there. Kulekjian explains mysteries of the earth itself and the root structure of trees and plants. What child won’t be delighted to learn plants are communicating underground? The earth-toned artwork comes alive below ground, with a plethora of creatures, mammal and insect, inhabiting what a child might consider boring dirt. Bones, rocks, and fossils fill the ground, along with roots and plant detritus, inviting images a young reader will need to explore thoroughly. While the text is sparse, each word is obviously chosen with care, conveying scientific concepts in beautiful, child-friendly terms.
THOUGHTS: The book is lovely in both word and images and will be a welcome addition to any picture book collection.
Picture Book Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD
Zhang, Gracey. Lala’s Words. Orchard Books, 2021. 978-1-338-64823-2. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3.
Lala is a little girl who loves to be outside especially when she can’t contain her energy. She loves skipping down the block of her neighborhood, an urban street of homes and shops. When Lala leaves her house, she runs to “a patch of dirt and concrete [with] short green weeds and leaves. A place of Lala’s own.” There she whispers sweet words to each of the plants in her garden, and she brings them water on hot days. Fed up with Lala being covered in dirt and not still and quiet, Lala’s mother refuses to let her “jibber-jabber in the dirt and grass” on the hottest day of summer. Sadly, Lala watches as all the people of her neighborhood pass by her window as she whispers to her garden’s plant friends. Overnight, something amazing happens, and Lala’s mother realizes just how special Lala is. Beautiful black and white ink and gouache illustrations with bursts of yellow and green perfectly capture Lala’s joy, kindness, and love.
THOUGHTS: Readers will enjoy this heartfelt story of kindness. Perfect for a morning meeting or a counseling lesson on using kind words, this title is sure to be a hit.
Picture Book Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD
Hemming, Alice. The Leaf Thief. 1st American ed., Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2021. 978-1-728-23520-2. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3.
Squirrel is contently lounging in his tree watching the sun shine through the colorful autumn leaves when he suddenly realizes one of his leaves is missing. He immediately enlists Bird’s help tracking down his missing leaf. He questions Mouse to no avail. The next day, he notices that more leaves are missing! He accuses Woodpecker and even Bird of stealing his leaves, but he soon discovers that there may be another explanation to his missing leaves. A humorous story sure to delight young readers, this would be an excellent choice for a fall read aloud.
THOUGHTS: Endnotes in the book explain some of the science behind the arrival of autumn, making this the perfect introduction to life cycles and the changing seasons. As an added bonus, Squirrel’s exaggerated actions and expressions make for a comical story that is sure to grab the interest of elementary students. This is a solid choice for elementary science collections.
Picture Book Julie Ritter, PSLA Member