Elem. – My City Speaks

Lebeuf, Darren. My City Speaks. Illustrated by Ashley Barron. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-525-30414-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades PreK-3.

A young girl takes readers through a day of exploring her city the way she experiences it – through sound. Though readers may not notice the narrator’s visual impairments, the intricate illustrations – a combination of cut-paper collage, watercolor, acrylic, and pencil crayon, with some digital assembly – show her using a white cane and yellow tactile paving at a crosswalk. Sounds from the city help highlight things one may not notice with so many beautiful sights – “hasty honks, impatient beeps, distant chimes, reliable rumbles, speedy sirens and urgent clangs.” A fun pre-reading activity would be to ask students to close their eyes and identify sounds they hear then compare what they hear with what they see.

THOUGHTS: This title is an opportunity to discuss diverse abilities and show children how similar people’s experiences may be, regardless of ability. Highly recommended for picture book collections, especially those seeking representation.

Picture Book          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Have You Ever Seen a Flower?

Harris, Shawn.  Have You Ever Seen a Flower?  Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-432-18270-4. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Accompanied by a little terrier, a young child leaves a gray, gloomy city filled with skyscrapers. As the car travels along a windy road, the pair stops to investigate a field filled with row after row of pink tulips. With rainbow colored hair and a multicolored shirt, this youngster of undisclosed gender, runs around the meadow, examining the flowers closely using all five senses. The author discusses the similarities between the growth and blossoming of a flower to that of a child. Harris has used pencil and colored pencil to create his drawings. Following a similar technique used in The Wizard of Oz film, the illustrations shift from grayscale to vibrant color with the movement from city to country. Some pictures are unusual, like the image of the child smelling the flower and the daunting queen bee. When the main character pricks a finger with a rose thorn, the preceding double page spread is entirely red, which the author calls “the brilliant color of your life.” The author’s message is that life is all around us and within us.

THOUGHTS: Some children may have difficulty grasping the meaning of this story. The text ends with confusing questions: “Have you ever been a flower…would you remember…try and see,” which may be too philosophical for young readers. A supplemental purchase.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired PSLA Member

Elem. – Under My Tree

Tallandier, Muriel. Under My Tree. Myrick Marketing & Media, 2020. 978-1-733-12123-1. $18.95. Grades K-2.

Under My Tree is a sweet picture book that follows Suzanne, a young girl, as she discovers her tree. She has found a tree that is special to her, and she takes the time to get to know it. She feels the bark, climbs the branches, smells the fruit, and even watches as it goes through its yearly cycle of changes. Suzanne learns much about her tree and even shares some of the things she has learned about with others. Suzanne loves her tree and knows that her tree loves her.

THOUGHTS: My favorite part of this story is the little “Fun Facts!” or “Try This!” that appears in the corners. There is information about a variety of topics, including information on what the fruit feels like, to fun ‘did you know’ facts about animals and bugs that may be on trees. This small information piece added something extra that teachers will love to use within their classrooms.

Picture Book          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD