Berne, Jennifer. How the Sea Came to Be (and All the Creatures in It). Illustrated by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-0-802-85478-0. $18.99. 56 p. Grades 2-5.
4.6 billion years ago our Earth was formed. For the next 600 million years the Earth’s surface was hot enough to melt rock. As the Earth began to cool, water formed from condensation, creating clouds and rain. Our oceans were born, and along with them came the first signs of single-cell life. Two billion years ago oxygen began to fill the oceans and atmosphere leading to more complex lifeforms in the oceans. This beautiful nonfiction picture book tells the story of the creation of the oceans and the life within them in rhymed verse. From the fiery start in bold reds and oranges, through the cooling period in icy shades of blue, and the eventual growth of life in luscious greens, the illustrations depict thousands of pre-historic and current day ocean creatures with detailed accuracy. End notes from the author and illustrator explain that our understanding of how the oceans formed is constantly evolving. This book’s information is based on what is currently known about the formation of the Earth, our oceans, and ocean life. Extensively illustrated factual information, recommendations for further research, reading, and viewing for students and educators as well as a selected biography, timeline, and glossary are all included.
THOUGHTS: A treasure trove of extensively researched information in a beautifully illustrated verse story. Useful as a read aloud, read alone, or elementary research resource.
This simple story takes readers on a journey through the life of a tumbleweed. Follow tumbleweed as he gets blown around the desert, encountering any animals along the way. Watch as the rain allows tumbleweed to root and sprout. The back of the book names all of the animals tumbleweed encounters along the way along with a Fun Facts page.
THOUGHTS: This title will be a good addition for classes that study the desert. It would be a great jumping off point to the unit.
Howley, Jonty. The Animal Song. Random House Studio. 2023. 978-0-593-38146-5. $18.99. Grades PreK-3.
A bear, crocodile, and a weasel. What do they have in common? They love music and are in a band together! From spring to fall, these animals play music for their forest friends. When winter hits and their forest friends go to sleep, they don’t have anyone to play for, and they aren’t ready to go to sleep! This musical animal band moves and continues playing through the winter, until finally, everyone is ready to sleep!
THOUGHTS: A fun musical story with a fun rhythm to read. The back of the book contains the lyrics and musical score for The Animal Song, allowing musical readers to play and sing along!
Obuhanych, Karen. This Little Kitty. Alfred A. Knopf, 2023. 978-0-593-43514-4. Unpaged. $18.99 Grades PK-2.
Kittens and cats romp across the page as the characters in This Little Kitty navigate their day, from breakfast, to playtime, to naps, and mischief. The cats take center stage in Karen Obuhanych’s illustrations, interacting within simple settings that support the text, but maintain the action of the story. Repetition and rhyme in the text will appeal to young and beginning readers and those who enjoy word play.
THOUGHTS: This joyful text certainly will appeal to young readers and cat lovers. Its strength lies in the illustrations–the cats in the book are expressive and are portrayed with unique personalities while maintaining a simplicity that will engage a young audience. Recommended for collections looking to appeal to cat lovers and young readers.
Ashman, Linda. Wonder Dogs! Illustrated by Karen Obuhanych. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2023. 978-1-534-49453-4. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-1.
Written in simple rhyming text, this picture book is a celebration of dogs. Told from the point of view of a young girl’s pet, a little dog describes what makes canines so wonderful as the pair goes for a walk. He sees dogs that fetch, chase and catch, as well as serve and protect. He watches them run agility courses and sees others use their sense of smell for search and rescue. After observing these animals in action, the small pooch feels that he is coming up short, because he cannot do any of these things. Thinking over his relationship with his guardian, the puppy begins to realize that he has some wonderful talents also. He can comfort the girl during a storm and encourages her to keep fit by taking him on walks. Most of all, his “superpower” is the love he gives to her. Obuhanych uses a variety of media to create whimsical illustrations of many different dog breeds. Her images of the dog narrator are simply darling.
THOUGHTS: This book is sure to be a hit for dog lovers, who will be eager to talk about the talents of their own pets. A worthwhile purchase for elementary collections.
Barnett, Mac. The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Orchard Books, and Imprint of Scholastic, 2022. 978-1-338-67384-5. $18.99. 48 p. Grades K-3.
This is a beautiful and amusing retelling of the traditional Norwegian trickster tale, brilliantly illustrated by Jon Klassen. A hungry troll lives beneath a bridge that connects the farmland to a grassy hill. Barnett’s classic droll humor makes this troll particularly amusing – he is so desperate he even eats his own ear wax and belly button lint. When a small goat crosses the bridge the troll dances and chants in rhyming verse, explaining all the ways he enjoys eating goat. The small goat convinces the troll to let him go, claiming that his big brother will follow him over the bridge. The big brother has a lot more meat on his bones and will make a much tastier meal for the troll. The troll lets the little goat go and praises himself for tricking the small goat into telling him about a better opportunity. Next, of course, comes the big brother goat. Again, the troll launches into a hilarious, rhyming litany of all the ways he will prepare the big brother goat for dinner. The big brother goat explains he is not the biggest of the goat brothers and would spoil the troll’s appetite. The greedy troll lets this second goat pass over the bridge without harm. As the troll waits in anticipation of his large meal he considers the words he will choose for his next rhyming recipe. The words “strudel” and “escargot” have him particularly perplexed. Along comes the biggest goat. This third goat is so big that we only can see his hairy legs on the full-bleed-spread. This goat is much larger than the troll bargained for; he is so shocked he cannot even form a rhyme. The biggest goat firmly tells the troll he will not eat him, and then proceeds to head-butt the troll off of the bridge. The troll splashes into the water below and falls down a big waterfall, which leads to an even bigger waterfall, which leads to an absolutely enormous waterfall. The three goat brothers are reunited on the grassy ridge, where they live happily ever after.
THOUGHTS: Barnett and Klassen are fabulous as always in this classic fairy tale with a twist. The book works exceedingly well as a read aloud. Children will be delighted in the rhyming antics of the troll, and the reveal of the third goat is absolutely brilliant. An embedded lesson in superlative adjectives is a delightful added bonus.
Picture Book Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD
Bolling, Valerie. Together We Ride. Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. Chronicle Books, 2022. 978-1-797-21248-7. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades Pre-K – 1.
The everyday moment of learning to ride a bicycle is commemorated in this heartwarming book. Father and daughter take to the cul-de-sac to conquer the two-wheeled bike. With extreme economy of language (a total of 31 words in the book), Bolling rhymes her way through the familiar experience – getting ready, trying, trying, riding, falling, getting back on. The ultimate reward is when the young girl gets to ride her bike alongside her parents, as the family, with younger brother in the sidecar, pedal off for a family picnic. The sparseness of text allows the artwork of Illustrator Kaylani Juanita to shine. While dad and daughter dominate the page, details in the pair’s surroundings delight the eye – a snail crawling up a birdbath, sidewalk chalk drawings, a proliferation of small creatures watching the progress. The whole book makes you smile as you join the celebration of this important milestone. The family portrayed is Black.
THOUGHTS: This book will be appreciated by any young child who is waiting to learn, or who has recently learned, to ride a bike. The simple, rhyming vocabulary is perfect for emerging readers.
Bailey, Annie. Mud! Illustrated by Jen Corace. Abrams Appleseed, 2022. 978-1-419-75097-7. 36p. $17.99. Grades PK-2.
Annie Bailey entices young readers to join two siblings as they romp and rhyme their way through a day of outdoor play in… Mud! Full of imagination and mischief, this book explores mud building, mud cooking, mud fights, and plain mucking about… followed by clean-up time (and maybe a little more mud). Jen Corace’s gouache, pencil, and ink illustrations reflect the book’s spirit of play and adventure, and Annie Bailey’s use of onomatopoeia reflects the muddy world she has created for her characters to explore.
THOUGHTS: This book is pure fun and outdoor exploration… and a welcome reminder that readers can still have fun outdoors even on a soggy spring day (as long as their caretakers tolerate the mess!). Readers will enjoy the word play on the pages with both rhyme and onomatopoeia and the joy the artist portrays adds to the fun. A welcome addition to libraries looking to promote outdoor play or add to their spring collections.
Young, Kevin. Emile and the Field. Illustrated by Chioma Ebinama. Make Me a World, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2022. 978-1-984-85042-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-2.
Emile, a young black boy, falls in love with a field. He loves everything about it–the bees, the flowers, the trees. The only thing he doesn’t like is having to share the field with other children in the winter, children who build snowmen and ride down the face of the field without his permission. Emile’s father explains that the other children love the field, too, and while no one owns the field, they will be able to enjoy it for many years to come if they all share it and take care of it. Impressionistic illustrations, rendered in watercolor and ink, are absolutely stunning and depict the field in various seasons and at various times of the day.
THOUGHTS: Nature and art lovers will absolutely adore this book. Its subtle message about appreciating nature and coming together to take care of it is an important one, and the gorgeous illustrations will not soon be forgotten.
Wilder, Derick. Does a Bulldozer Have a Butt? Illustrated by K-Fai Steele. Chronicle Books, 2022. 978-1-452-18212-4. Unpaged. $16.99. PreK-1.
On the way to school, a father and child debate a very interesting question: “Which things do and don’t have butts?” Hilarity ensues as the father either confirms or denies whether various items and creatures have butts, from frogs, butterflies, and sheep to bulldozers, storm clouds, and crayons–and everything in between. Readers will be entranced by the rhyming, lyrical flow of the text and delighted to discover hidden bottoms within the illustrations on every page.
THOUGHTS: This entertaining read is sure to evoke many laughs. While the father and child have brown skin, the other characters are all very diverse. This is a solid purchase for libraries looking to incorporate more humorous stories into their collections.