“First you have brown, all around you have brown / and then there are seeds / and a wish for rain…”
Surrounded by nothing but the barren brown of winter, a bespectacled young gardener and his coterie of animal companions plant the first seeds of spring. They patiently examine the stubborn brown, fret over the possibility of peckish birds and stomping bears, and listen for the green buzzing of nascent life below the earth. A gentle, wistful palette, exquisitely crafted woodblock and pencil detail, and direct, intimate language leave the reader sharing the same hope, doubt, and ultimately joy at the sweeping green of spring’s arrival. Preschool–Grade 2.
In this lyrical biography of renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle, whales move like sparrows; otters, ballerinas. Bioluminescent creatures flash with blue fire, like fireflies in open air. As much a celebration of the ocean’s grandeur as Earle’s personal story, Life in the Ocean allows us to enter “the blue heart of the planet” through Earle’s eyes. Claire Nivola’s stunningly detailed watercolors capture everything from the immensity and grace of a blue whale to the Paul Klee–like vision of the sea 3000 feet down. “After reading this, I have a mounting sense of regret for not becoming an ocean biologist.” (Eileen). Grades 1–5. —Tera & Gā
Chiro, a young bat, learns that he must make his first night trip alone. When he complains that it will be “…darker even than the water before dawn,” his mother explains that there are many ways to see the world. Some parents and educators will have to explain echolocation, but children will delight in this lesson as they see the light pouring from Chiro’s singing mouth. Chiro’s mother is featured as end-caps in this story, but her wisdom and tenderness are undeniable. Grades K–3.
Two Feiffers meet at the intersection of seriousness and silliness in this brief story about a trip to the zoo in which it is raining on one side of the car, but definitely not on the other. While maintaining a narrative that is clear, endearing, and humorous, daughter (Kate) and father (Jules) raise questions about the fallibility of memory and the stability of reality. And if the story is not enough, they include the real-life dialogue that inspired it as backmatter. The best part is, no one—not Kate, not Jules, and not the reader—knows what “really” happened that day. Ages 4 and up.
Yezerski’s newest book is the pictorial history of an intertidal zone that has been in use for thousands of years: by the plants and animals that first lived in it; by the Lenape tribe who lived with it; by the European settlers who cut down, filled in, and planted upon it; by the 20th-century inhabitants who built highways, airports, and factories, and dumped trash and industrial wastes into it; and now by a new generation of activists and schoolchildren who work to turn the area from the noxious dump it was into a place that can once again support life. Yezerski tells this story through frank text and panoramic pen-and-ink spreads with watercolor wash, framed by cleverly chosen thumbnail sketches that relate to each landscape (such as swamp mosquitoes, candy wrappers, cordgrass, dioxins, muskets, and muskrats). This is the story of a New Jersey estuary, but could as easily have been about the Watsonville wetlands. Grades 1–4. —Gā & Holly
About Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus, the third installment of this new, immediately likable series for new readers, School Library Journal says, “Atinuke handles the complexity of life in Africa (and the differences between life there and in North America) with deftness and grace. Serious concepts like racism, poverty, and social activism are covered as simply and expertly as dealing with taking the blame for a sibling’s misbehavior without becoming heavy-handed or unsuitable for early chapter-book audiences. Although elements of Anna’s life may be foreign to some readers, her sweet nature and youthful troubles are common to children everywhere. The expressive black-and-white images that weave seamlessly through the texts enhance the stories beautifully. Anna Hibiscus is a lovely, rare bird of a series, providing a modern view of another culture in warm, approachable language.” Grades 1–3.