Elem. – Home Is…

Barnaby, Hannah. Home Is… Beach Lane Books. 2021. 978-1-5344-2176-9. $17.99. Gr. PreK-3.

Home is many things to many different people and creatures. Home can be small or big, above or below, cold or warm. Home can be any place one calls its own. With beginning lyrical text, this picture book shows young readers how home is where a person (or animal) loves to be and how that is different for all creatures.

THOUGHTS: This book contains detailed pictures to share how homes are different for all creatures. With simple text, this book can provide instructors with a simple resource to discuss home, nature, environment, or a variety of topics within a curriculum.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest

Lang, Heather. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest. Calkins Creek, 2021. 978-1-68437-177-8. Unpaged. $18.99 Grades 2-5.

From childhood Meg was always interested in nature, opting to spend time outside studying plants. As an adult she moved from her Elmira, New York hometown to Australia where she pioneered rainforest studies. In 1979, she invented a slingshot harness allowing her to study trees from the canopy of branches sitting up to one hundred and fifty feet tall. From dizzying heights Meg studied the rainforest in ways scientists had not previously attempted prior to her invention. Nearly a decade later, Meg was instrumental in developing plans for the first canopy walkway making rainforest ecology accessible to more people and fostering an understanding of its importance to Australian citizens. In her quest to learn even more about rainforests,  Meg joined a team in Cameroon who launched a hot air balloon permitting the scientists a view from the top of the canopy. It was here that Meg realized conservation as her next calling. She began traveling the world, pioneering conservation preservation projects in Cameroon, Western Samoa, and Ethiopia. Mesmerizing full color digital illustrations saturate every page with rainforest scenery. Animals, plants, trees, insects and birds emphasize the biodiversity of the rainforest. Leaf-shaped text boxes nearly blend into the scenery, rewarding a close reading with  additional facts about the rainforest.

577.34 Rain Forest Ecology          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
Biography
Picture Book

Elem. – The Fox and the Forest Fire

Popovici Danny. The Fox and the Forest Fire. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-797-20282-2 44 p. $17.95. Grades K-3. 

A young boy moves from the city to a house in the woods. At first, he is unsure of his new surroundings, but he begins to love his new environment with time. He loves to explore, adventure, and learn about the animals and their homes that inhabit the woods that surround his new home, especially a bright orange fox that lives nearby. In Danny Popovici’s The Fox and the Forest Fire, the reader will fall in love with the forest through the eyes of a young explorer. But when the young boy spots a fire that quickly engulfs the woods, his family is not only displaced, but his beloved home, trees, bugs, plants, and animals are forever changed. With a forest fire, so much can change quickly, but the family (and forest) can regrow and rejuvenate with time, hope, and support. In this touching story, resilience wins. 

THOUGHTS: The Fox and the Forest Fire was written and illustrated by a volunteer forest firefighter, which gives the book a unique and special perspective. The story has an uplifting message about rebuilding and resilience, not only for humans but for nature too. At the close of the book, the author’s notes and information could ignite essential conversations in the classroom about the effects of natural disasters on our environment. I love that this book can serve as a resource for coping with personal and community tragedies with a small nod to the first responders that risk their lives for others. 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem./MG – Explore! America’s National Parks

Langlois, Krista. Explore! America’s National Parks. Kane Miller, 2021. 978-1-684-64193-2. 96 p. $18.99. Grades 3-6. 

It’s time for a trip – a trip to America’s amazing national parks! This title takes readers around the United States to explore 61 parks. Parks are profiled by geographic region, and readers will learn about not to be missed landmarks as well as recommended activities. Selected flora and fauna readers should keep an eye out for plants that are also spotlighted. Recommended camping and hiking spots are identified as well as locations to take the perfect park photo. Environmental issues facing parks are also highlighted, along with suggestions of what readers can do to help protect and care for parks. The text is accompanied by Hannah Bailey’s beautiful illustrations, which are created with stencil, ink, and digitally enhanced/arranged.

THOUGHTS: A great resource for research projects on national parks or the armchair traveler, this title is deserving of a spot on elementary an/or middle school shelves. The author consulted with park rangers and it is clearly evident in the wide variety of suggested park activities and park spots not to be missed.

917 National Parks          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD   

Elem. – Dear Treefrog

Sidman, Joyce. Dear Treefrog. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2021. 978-0-358-06476-3. $17.99. Grades K-3

Dear Treefrog is a delightful book of poems about the nature of the treefrog. With incorporated facts on the sides of the pages, this book provides some wonderful poems that explain what the frog is doing. Illustrated pictures increase the serenity of the treefrog, proving a fun experience for young readers.

THOUGHTS: A fun poetry book about the treefrog. Readers will enjoy the poems, all while learning fun facts about this animal!

811 Poetry          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – Grow

Macken, JoAnn Early. Grow. Boyds Mill Press, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-635-92308-7. $17.99. Grades PreK-2.

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.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

Elem. – Engineered by Nature (Series NF)

London, Martha. Engineered by Nature (series of 8). Abdo Publishing, 2021. 32 pp. $21.29 each. Set of 8 $170.32 set of 8. Grades 2-5.

Cave of Crystals. 978-1-5321-92845.
Arches National Park. 978-1-5321-92838.
Giant’s Causeway. 978-1-5321-92852.
Grand Canyon. 978-1-5321-92869.
Great Barrier Reef. 978-1-5321-92876.
The Great Blue Hole. 978-1-5321-92883.
Mount Everest. 978-1-5321-92890.
Uluru. 978-1-5321-92906

These STEM oriented books focus on natural wonders and how they were formed. In Cave of Crystals, the author discusses this little known place in Mexico. Discovered by a mining company under the Sierra de Naica Mountains in the year 2000, the cave is just about as deep as the Eiffel Tower is tall. Once the water was pumped out, miners were surprised to see giant selenite crystals, some 36 feet tall. The largest of the interconnecting caverns is called Cave of Crystals. The author describes how these crystals were formed, what the conditions were like inside the cave, and which microorganisms lived inside the crystals. This natural wonder was only seen by scientists and is no longer accessible because the water is no longer being pumped out. The text contains a glossary, index, table of contents, map, and suggested resources. QR codes take readers to websites that contain teacher resources, as well as a site for children. There is also a quote from a scientist, which is labeled a primary source. The photographs are striking, especially the one that shows the size of the crystals compared with a human.

THOUGHTS: This series will appeal to those budding earth scientists. Although it is short with simple text, there is enough information for reports. Good resources for elementary STEM units.

Geography, Earth Science          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
(917.24, 979.2, 914.1, 979.1, 551.4, 994.3, 954.96, 994.29)

Elem. – Wonder Walkers

Archer, Micha. Wonder Walkers. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021. 978-0-593-10964-9. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

When two children head outside for a walk, there’s no shortage of things to wonder about. The more they explore, the more questions they have. “Is the sun the world’s light bulb?” “Are branches trees’ arms?” “Are roots the plant’s toes?” The simple text consists mainly of the children’s questions, and the straightforward writing encourages contemplation and discussion. The illustrations are the stars of this book. Stunning double page spreads were created with inks and collage using tissue paper and patterned papers. Archer also uses homemade stamps to create different textures and layers. From green patterned ribbons of grass to swirling underground root networks to patchworks of sunset sky, students will pore over the pages, noting new details with each repeated read.

THOUGHTS: Use this title to encourage students to become more observant and appreciative of the wide world around them. This is the perfect story to share after a nature walk, as students will make connections to things they noticed and things the children in the story encounter. Whether inspired by fields of wildflowers, changing leaves, or a burbling brook, students will have no trouble coming up with “wonders” of their own as they let their imagination soar.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Elem. – She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey Pioneering Nature Activist

D’Aquino, Andrea. She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey Pioneering Nature Activist. Princeton, Architectural Press, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-648-96050-5. $18.95. Grades 1-3.

This picture book biography is the story of a woman who made a difference. Florence Merriam Bailey grew up in the late 19th century with her family who loved nature. Her mother was an astronomer and her father took the family on a summer long camping trip where she loved to observe the forest animals. Florence’s favorite creatures were birds and she studied their behavior and songs. She strongly disliked the latest fashion in hats, which were adorned with feathers and even the actual carcasses of birds. Bailey and her classmates at Smith College initiated a successful boycott of these hats. Florence became an avid ornithologist and promoted watching birds in a natural setting with binoculars in contrast to scientists who studied them in laboratories. She was the author of a field guide and other books on birds and their methods of communication. The author’s full bleed illustrations are done using hand-painted collage, oil pastel and pencil. Readers will enjoy examining the many colorful birds that are depicted.

THOUGHTS: This book is a great choice for elementary collections. It could be used during Women’s History Month, Earth Day or in science units. Children will learn about the wonder and beauty of our feathered friends and may be inspired to do some birdwatching on their own.

921 Biography          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
598.2 Birds     

YA – Playing with Fire

Henry, April. Playing with Fire. Henry Holt & Co., 2021. 978-1-250-23406-3. 225 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.

A gorgeous day in Portland. An idyllic waterfall. A boy who is interested in you – what could possibly go wrong? Natalia and coworker Wyatt are just wrapping up an afternoon hike at Basin Falls when a loud pop shatters the peace. Shortly after a man goes running by, and the smell of smoke drifts in the air. In the blink of an eye Natalia’s worst fear is coming true, again. A fire is raging in the forest and now Natalia, Wyatt, and a dozen other people are trapped. Using Wyatt’s map and skills and Natalia’s medical training, the pair help navigate the motley crew through the forest as the fire chases them. As the night progresses, Natalia will face her fears while helping a burn victim, someone having a panic attack, and someone with a dislocated knee. But when a bridge prevents the troop from escape, will Natalia have the courage to overcome her demons and make up for past mistakes?

THOUGHTS: A fast paced read, Henry does not disappoint with this novel! The characters are well developed and the story follows a clear timeline. Readers get a glimpse into Natalia’s past and how her fear of fire plays such a critical role in helping others. Students who enjoy adventure stories like Hatchet will love Playing with Fire!

Adventure Fiction          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD

Grades 6-12.

Seventeen year old Natalia lives in Portland near beautiful hiking trails, but she’s never been hiking. She was sick – sedated in a hospital – the week of Outdoor School, where most fifth graders stay in cabins in the woods. Her Dairy Barn co-worker Wyatt is determined to right this wrong, and he takes Natalia on a hike up to see a beautiful waterfall overlook. At 6:24 pm they’re on the way down when they hear a loud pop, probably someone firing a rifle in the Gorge, Wyatt explains. Natalia notices the smell of smoke which Wyatt connects to the local Cougar Creek fire as he explains the dangers of the tinder dry woods. Thirty minutes later they approach the bottom of the trail where to their horror the very woods they need to pass through are engulfed in flames. Natalia has avoided even the smallest birthday candle for the past six years. With no cell service and few other options, Natalia and Wyatt begin to hike back up the trail to find a new exit. Warning people to return to the falls on their way back up, Natalia is reminded of her little brother. When a helicopter drops a rock with a note that says, “Fire spreading….Extreme danger.” the group needs to come together to survive. With a variety of personalities and skills and few supplies, will they make it to Sky Bridge before they’re rescued, or will the fire reach them first?

THOUGHTS: Taking a slightly different approach to her typical “missing girl” stories, Henry strikes gold with this fast-paced thriller. A must purchase for middle and high school libraries, especially where Henry books are popular, adventure/thriller fans will zip through and request another.

Adventure Fiction          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD