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
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