Nancy Brashear and Carolyn Angus
Books in beginning-to-read and early chapter book formats support literacy development and leave readers looking forward to reading other books about the interesting characters they meet in them. In this column we review recently published first books in new series, much anticipated sequels, and the latest books in some popular long-running series for emergent to newly independent readers.
Anna Hibiscus (Anna Hibiscus Chapter Books #1). Atinuke. Illus. by Lauren Tobia. (2022). Candlewick.
“Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. In a country called Nigeria.” She lives in an old white house with her mother and father, her twin baby brothers (Double and Trouble), and her large intergenerational family. In this early chapter book first published in the UK in 2007, Nigerian-born master storyteller Atinuke introduces readers to charming young Anna Hibiscus in four short episodic chapters: “Anna Hibiscus on Holiday,” “Auntie Comfort,” “Anna Hibiscus Sells Oranges,” and “Sweet Snow.” Lauren Tobia’s gray-scale drawings showcase the contemporary West African urban setting, add to the humor of Anna’s mini adventures, and enrich reader comprehension. Candlewick will release two more titles, Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! and Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus!, in January 2023. (PreK Up)
Ballet Bruce. Ryan T. Higgins. (2022). Disney Hyperion.
In this sequel to Ryan T. Higgin’s World of Reading Level 1 Bruce’s Big Fun Day (2019), the four geese who imprinted on Bruce in Mother Bruce (2015), the first of the popular picture books about the grumpy bear, want to do ballet after seeing a Swan Lake poster. They use sad goose eyes to cajole Bruce to ride his motorcycle to town through a congested construction zone to buy ballet shoes. The geese now want dancing pants. He makes a second trip to town and returns with them. but the geese still request one more thing. After a third trip, Bruce comes home with tutus, VERY tired, only to have the geese announce they no longer want to dance. They want Bruce to take them on a ride! (PreK-Gr 2)
Charlie & Mouse Are Magic (Charlie & Mouse #6). Laurel Snyder. Illus. by Emily Hughes. (2022). Chronicle.
In this latest book in the Charlie & Mouse series, the siblings first introduced in the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award-winning Charlie & Mouse (2017) are involved in more fun-filled activities, which begin with Mouse mixing up a magic potion and making a mess in the kitchen while Mom is trying to make dinner. Mouse believes the potion works when he gets the cookie he wished for after putting a drop of the potion on his nose (Mom gave him a cookie and told him to scram). The four related short stories (“Magic,” “Invisible,” “Animals,” and “More Magic”) will engage the interest of beginning readers. Plan to have the earlier books in the series available for them to enjoy as they improve their reading skills. (PreK-Gr 2)
Click, Clack Rainy Day (Click Clack Ready-to-Read #8). Doreen Cronin. Illus. by Betsy Lewin. (2022). Simon Spotlight.
The cows enjoy standing out in the rain. Farmer Brown, the mice, and the chickens, who do not like to be wet, stay inside. As puddles accumulate around the house and barn, Farmer Brown, worried about the cows, takes them umbrellas. The chickens take them rain boots, and the mice bring them sweaters. Back inside to stay dry, they watch as a strong wind blows away the cows’ rain gear. Soon the cows also blow over the farm before landing on their feet once more. Farmer Brown and all the farm animals join the cows, happily getting wet and muddy in the barnyard. Newly independent readers will enjoy reading other of Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s Click, Clack stories that have been published as Ready-to-Read Level 2 books. (PreK-Gr 2)
Food Truck Fiasco (Frank and Bean #2). Jamie Michalak. Illus. by Bob Kolar. (2022). Candlewick.
Bean (an exuberant bean) invites Frank (a calm hot dog) to the Food Truck Friday contest to sell his Big Bean Candy Mountain donuts, but Frank shows up with his own surprise plan. He’s going to sell oatmeal. No one is interested in either Bean’s donuts with candy toppings or Frank’s plain oatmeal (they all want Mad Dog’s cupcakes) until a serendipitous collision creates a Friendship Bowl of oatmeal with zippy, zingy, sweet toppings. Everyone loves this unique food truck item, which is as unlikely and satisfying as the friendship between Frank and Bean with their very different personalities. Clever wordplay and colorful, digital artwork make this beginning chapter book a treat. (PreK-Gr 2)
Herbert on the Slide (Hippo Park Pals #1). Rilla Alexander. (2022). Hippo Park.
For Herbert, a purple hippo with a big smile, the best thing about going to the Hippo Park playground is the slide. “Herbert loved everything about the slide.” He loved the climb up the ladder, the sitting down and getting comfy, the test runs of his teddy bear and truck, the 3-2-1 countdown, the fluttery feeling, and then the slide down. ”Weeeee!” Herbert uses his imagination to make each climb up and slide down an adventure before lining up to start all over again. Fiona, Herbert’s sister who also loves the playground, is the star of Fiona in the Sandbox, the second book in a quartet of mini Hippo Park Pals books (out in February 2023). (Pre-K)
The Infamous Ratsos Live! In Concert! (The Infamous Ratsos #6). Kara LaReau. Illus. by Matt Myers. (2022). Candlewick.
Louie and Ralphie Ratso enlist musical friends Tiny, Millicent, and Velma to perform in a concert fund-raiser for a Big City Park restoration project in memory of their mother that began when she was on the Neighborhood Parks Committee. The Ratso brothers have gotten permission to use songs of their favorite pop group, Critter Kidz, but they need to persuade Chad Badgerton (even though he makes fun of the sparkly, girly costumes) to fill in when lead singer Tiny comes down with laryngitis. The song-and-dance performance is a success and ends with a surprise twist. Matt Myers’ humorous black-and-white cartoon illustrations add to the appeal of this chapter book series for newly independent readers. (PreK Up)
It’s a Sign! (Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie Like Reading!). Jarrett Humphrey. Illus. by Jerome Humphrey & Mo Willems. (2022). Hyperion.
This early reader story is told entirely in color-coded dialogue balloons that match up with foxlike cartoon characters (red One, orange Two, yellow Kat, and purple Four), who each contributes something based on what they can do with paper and markers to create a sign for their new club. The result is the perfect club name: “THE PAPER-FOLDING-LETTER-WRITING-WORD-FORMING-SIGN-MAKING CLUB!” It’s a Sign! begins with Mo Willem’s Elephant & Piggie seeing a sign advertising this “fun new book to read” and ends with the Pigeon joining them in starting their own club, a “FAVORITE THINGS CLUB!” (PreK-Gr 2)
Judy Moody and the Missing Mood Ring (Judy Moody and Friends #13). Megan McDonald. Illus. by Erwin Madrid. (2022). Candlewick.
Third-grader Judy Moody runs (literally!) into Mighty Fantaskey at the library, and they discover their common love of Nancy Drew, girl detective. When Judy visits Mighty in her haunted, old mansion, her favorite mood ring turns gray (for “I’m a Scaredy-Cat”), and something big and hairy jumps out at her in the attic. She escapes in a hurry only to realize after she’s home that her ring is missing. While searching for it in the attic, Judy and Mighty solve a real-life, ninety-year-old Nancy Drew-like mystery. Colorful, cartoon-like digital illustrations, diverse characters, a three-chapter format, and an enticing plot keep transitional readers reading to the end of this latest book in this popular series. (PreK-Gr 2)
McTavish on the Move (McTavish #4). Meg Rosoff. Illus. by Grace Easton. (2022). Candlewick.
When Pa Preachy comes home from work singing a jolly tune and being smiley rather than grouchy, Ma Preachy and the kids (Ollie, Ava, and Betty) worry he’s ill until he announces that he has a new job, one that will involve a move. Everyone in the family likes the new house and neighborhood except Betty, who will have to go to a new school. Not to worry, McTavish, the lovable rescue dog adopted by the Preachys, who has “rescued” the family in the first three books in this delightful read-aloud or read-alone transitional series, involves the whole school in a stop-that-dog chase that makes Betty’s first day of school a success. (PreK Up)
New Shark in Town (Harvey Hammer #1). Davy Ocean. Illus. by Aaron Blecha. (2022). Aladdin Quix.
Harvey (a young hammerhead shark) is busy drawing an episode of his comic about King Krusher, the Super-Fighting Crab, and his sidekick, Hammer-Boy, when his father hands him Baby Finn, who vomits all over him. In a rush to get to his new school, Harvey doesn’t change his shirt and is targeted for being stinky by Spike, a bully puffer fish. After Spike’s father (a doctor) and Harvey’s mother (the new chief of police) share embarrassing stories about their children at a school assembly, the boys bump fins. “Parents!” Back home, Harvey finishes his comic book story with his superhero and arch-enemy shaking claw and tail. Black-and-white digital illustrations, a Cast of Characters, Contents, Word List, and Questions enable smooth swimming through this Quix Fast-Fun-Reads chapter book. (PreK Up)
Ollie’s Hug (Gossie and Friends). Olivier Dunrea. (2022). Clarion.
Ollie, the gosling who hatched in Ollie (2003) and wanted boots like Gossie and Gertie’s in Ollie the Stomper (2003), is in a mood. “Nothing feels right!” Gosling friends Gertie, Peedie, Gemma, BooBoo, and Gideon each try to cheer him up, but nothing works. It is red-booted Gossie who comes up with what little Ollie needs, a hug. This board book ends with a “Meet Gossie & Friends” chart with portraits and brief statement about each of the 12 lovable goslings with big personalities who star in Olivier Dunrea’s series of small books. With their simple text with a repetitive pattern and expressive ink-and-watercolor illustrations, the Gossie and Friends books offer gentle messages about kindness and friendship. (PreS-K)
S’more Than Meets the Eye (Nugget and Dog #3). Jason Tharp. (2022). Simon Spotlight.
In this new book in Jason Tharp’s Level 2 Ready-to-Read Graphics series, Nugget (a chicken nugget) and Dog (a hot dog), best buds, are excited about going to Camp Lotta Pine and telling spooky stories around the Smoldering S’Mores Campfire. They’re not excited to find that Dijon Mustard, the evil mustard packet they encountered in the series opener, All Ketchup, No Mustard (2021), is also a camper. However, “Mean Green Pine Thing,” the scary story of Dijon mustard and his cousin, Honey Mustard, backfires to become the funniest story ever (even though Dijon continues to insist that he is “a true evil mastermind”). With text packed with clever wordplay and colorful cartoon artwork, this series is a perfect introduction to graphic novels. Each book contains a “How to Read This Book” guide with an introduction to panels, speech bubbles, and bubbly thinking clouds. (PreK Up)
True Creative Talents (Audrey L & Audrey W #2). Carter Higgins. Illus. by Jennifer K. Mann. (2022). Chronicle.
Just as best friends and “true creative talents” Audrey L and Audrey W are adding the final touches to their papier-mâché parade balloon of their teacher, Ms. Fincastle, “teamwork troubles” leads to the reorganization of table groups in Room 19. Audrey L is now at the Igneous Rock table while Audrey W is three tables away on the other side of the room. Audrey L worries about losing her best friend until Ms. Fincastle helps her realize her special talents—having lots of good ideas and making friends—in this humorous chapter book about activities and relationships in a realistic second grade classroom. (PreK-Gr 2)
Nancy Brashear is Professor Emeritus of English from Azusa Pacific University, in Azusa California. Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.
Chelsey Bahlmann Bollinger & Skye Deiter
The picture books and board books reviewed in this column present an array of topics from animals to tractors. They encourage children to actively participate by lifting flaps, examining intriguing images, and answering posed questions. Babies and toddlers are sure to find some new favorites that they will want to read over and over again with family members and caregivers or in early childhood settings.
Adventure Awaits. Henry Cole. (2022). Little Simon.
A dog and a cat living in the same home awake and embark on separate adventures outside. After surviving separate chases, they reunite under a tree where the sound of an owl sends both of them running. What begins as a fearful flight turns into a friendly race back home to cuddle together for a nap on a shared pillow until another adventure awaits in a surprise twist at the end of the story. The colorful, expressive illustrations and spare text, usually only one word on a page (“sunrise // stretch // adventure // awaits”) of Henry Cole’s inviting board book encourages conversation to interpret unfolding story events and make predictions of what is to come.
Do Baby Elephants Suck Their Trunks?: Amazing Ways Animals Are Just Like Us. Ben Lerwill. Illus. by Katharine McEwen. (2022). Nosy Crow.
How are human babies similar to various baby animals? Each double-page spread of this picture book with vibrant collage artwork features a question such as “How do you stay warm?” or “Do you drink a lot of milk?” addressed to the child reader followed by facts about a baby animal and the care of its family that is similar. Different wild and domestic animals (elephants, polar bears, orangutans, dogs, and six more) and their behaviors are included. And yes, baby elephants sometimes suck their trunks.
Five Hiding Ostriches. Barbara Barbieri McGrath. Illus. by Riley Samels. (2022). Charlesbridge.
Fun Fact: When hiding from predators, ostriches lie down, stretch their necks out, and put their heads down on the ground to disguise themselves as rocks. In this early concept counting book with a patterned rhyming text and full-color digital artwork, five little ostriches run and hide from a lion tracking them. In a surprising turn of events, the ostriches outsmart the lion, who declares, “You birds won hide-and-seek!” The book ends with fun facts about ostriches and a game for children (and adults) to play to mimic the hide-and-seek game that takes place in the book.
Goodnight, Little Sloth (Baby Animal Tales #6). Amanda Wood. Illus. by Vikki Chu. Photos. by Bec Winnel. (2022). Magic Cat.
Little Sloth spends his days swaying gently on a tree branch, munching on leaves, napping, and just looking around to see what he can see. Although some parrots tease him with names like lazybones and slowpoke and tell him that he is missing out on what the rest of the forest has to offer, it is Little Sloth, not the parrots, who witnesses something spectacular from the comfort of his tree. This tale with Bec Winnel’s photographic images of Little Sloth in his green forest home created by Vikki Chu’s watercolor paintings offers a message to all readers, young and old, to slow down and appreciate the beautiful wonders all around them.
Here We Come! Janna Matthies. Illus. by Christine Davenier. (2022). Beach Lane.
“Here we come with a rum-pum-pum. / Wanna come?” In this cumulative picture book story, a young boy embarks on an imaginative moonlit adventure into the woods with his musical pipe and teddy bear. Illustrations washed in soft blue ink introduce animals with instruments and pajama-clad children one-by-one who accept an invitation to join in the parade. All is merry until rain halts the lively march, and everyone huddles under a tree to wait out the last of the “drippy-drips” before returning to their homes. The repetition of rhymes loaded with onomatopoeia and silly words like “swish-swish bum” will have toddlers chiming in as this rhythmic bedtime story is read aloud.
A Kit Story (Animal Stories #2). Kristen Tracy. Illus. by Alison Farrell. (2022). Chronicle.
In this beautifully crafted board book, written as an autobiography of a fox kit, readers learn about a young fox’s behavior and growth during the four seasons. The kit compares herself to other animals throughout the year by describing differences. “It’s springtime. // Lambs gambol all day. / Owls swoop all night. // Not me. // Like a skunk / or a lightning bug, / I slink best / at dusk and dawn.” The little fox’s recounting of childlike behaviors, such as getting scared by a twig snapping and playing with a sibling, helps toddlers develop a connection with the kit, and the use of action verbs and terms like vixen (female fox) or skulk (group of foxes) promotes vocabulary acquisition.
Lion Lullaby. Kate Banks. Illus. by Lauren Tobia. (2022). Candlewick.
As the sun begins to set in the savanna, ten little lions must find their way home in time for bed. “One little lion perched in a tree. / Where is it looking and what does it see? // A monkey is bouncing a babe on its knee. / Oh, little lion, hurry on home.” One at a time, the little lions stop playing to join the journey home until finally, in a heartwarming ending, all ten cubs are huddled together under the evening stars, drifting off into a peaceful sleep with their mothers. With its rhythmic verses and playful illustrations that gradually grow darker and calmer, this bedtime lullaby is sure to sooth even the wildest little ones.
Little Fish’s Ocean (Little Fish). Lucy Cousins. (2022). Candlewick.
Lucy Cousins’ Little Fish returns in a new, interactive ocean adventure in this sturdy lift-the-flaps board book with her signature colorful gouache illustrations of five underwater scenes for readers to explore. They will meet Little Fish’s fishy friends including crabs and mollusks in rock pools, a dolphin and stingray in kelp beds, a squid and an anglerfish in the deep sea, seals and a blue whale in the Antarctic, and “Mommy Fish” in Little Fish’s coral reef home. Descriptive rhymes with welcoming words such as “wave hello” or “dive down deep” engage young children as they learn about different ocean animals and the diversity of their habitats.
My Very First 100 Words. Rosemary Wells. (2022). Paula Wiseman.
With softly colored mixed-media illustrations of the cute animal characters dressed in clothes Rosemary Wells is known for, her latest picture book supports children’s language development by using selected and adapted Mother Goose rhymes to focus on words and phrases. For example, the classic rhyme “I’m Dusty Bill / from Vinegar Hill / Never had a bath / And I never will” is used to introduce words associated with the activity of taking a bath: “dirty,” “wet,” “dry,” “clean,” and “in” and “out” of a tub. The book can be used with babies by pointing to various images during the reading. With repeated readings, Toddlers will begin to identify rhymes and specific words in each of the rhymes. The backside of the dust jacket is a poster with 100 “very first words.”
Odd Birds: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Flock. Laura Gehl. Illus. by Gareth Lucas. (2022). Abrams Appleseed.
In this board book, babies and toddlers are presented with a simple text and colorful portraits of eight “odd birds” and interesting facts about them. For example, the reader learns about the hoatzin that smells like poop. The final double-spread page features photographs of the unusual birds: frigate bird, blue-footed booby, shoebill stork, ostrich, hoatzin, oilbird, California condor, and burrowing owl along with additional information about them. (The hoatzin smells like poop because it takes a long time for its food to be digested, and the odor keeps predators away.) Bird-loving children are sure to enjoy this book.
River (Animal Families #5). Nosy Crow. Illus. by Jane Ormes. (2022). Nosy Crow.
Jane Ormes’s vibrant screen print artwork for this interactive board book showcases four river animal families: duck, otter, dragon fly, and swan. Double-spread pages feature portraits of the “daddies” on the left and the “mommies on the right, identified by name. A lift of the flap on the right reveals their “baby.” The final double spread has a flap on each side to open to show the families and their group name. This square board book with sturdy easy-to-lift flaps fits nicely in tiny hands and encourages children to be actively involved in the reading of the book.
10 Hungry Rabbits (New edition). Anita Lobel. (2022). Paula Wiseman.
When Mama Rabbit reveals she has no ingredients to prepare a soup for her ten hungry rabbits, they agree to pick vegetables from the family’s garden. One by one, each of the rabbits discovers something yummy for Mama’s soup, and with each rabbit’s discovery, readers are introduced to two basic skills: counting and color recognition. As each rabbit visits the garden, a large panel on the page presents the respective number three ways: as the cardinal numeral, in word form, and as a pictorial representation of the vegetable, all in the featured color, while a smaller panel at the bottom of the page reveals the rabbit, in a color-coordinated outfit, picking the food. The text on the page also includes the ordinal number. For example, “The sixth rabbit yanked up SIX ORANGE carrots.” Anita Lobel’s engaging concept picture book was originally published in 2012.
Tractor. Sally Sutton. Illus. by Brian Lovelock. (2022). Candlewick.
A green tractor works hard through the year pulling farm implements doing the seasonal activities on a family farm—plowing, tilling, planting seeds, irrigating, harvesting, and transporting the crop of corn out of the field. Sally Sutton’s patterned, rhythmic verses with chants express each implement’s role (for example, the seed drill plants the seeds and “tips them!” and “flips them!”), and a following question asks the reader to name it. This book will delight children who love all sorts of things that go as they enjoy hearing the story read again and again while poring over Brian Lovelock’s colorful, detailed, colorful pigmented ink illustrations. The final double spread labels the parts of the tractor and identifies the farm implements.
Chelsey Bahlmann Bollinger is an assistant professor in the Early, Elementary, and Reading Department at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Skye Deiter is a third-grade classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
What difference can one person make in changing the world? Does it matter how old you are or where you live? The following reviews include biographies of environmentalists who made or are making a difference in the world through their empathy and activism. These books will inspire young readers to take stock of their world and think about what they can do to create a better life for everyone and protect our planet.
Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer, Naturalist & Environmental Pioneer. Danica Novgorodoff. (2022). Crown.
Growing up in Germany, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a lonely, misunderstood child who loved being outdoors and learning about how all living things are connected. He had many questions and dreams of adventure that had to wait to be answered and experienced until he grew up. As an adult, his dreams come true, and he continued to ask questions while traveling and observing nature around him. Von Humboldt believed that all people are connected through their curiosity about the world and that animals and their habitats—and even volcanos—are connected by unseen communication systems far below the ground. Danica Novgorodoff’s poetic language paints a vivid picture of the places, people, and animals that Alexander observed. The repetition of the phrases “he had so many questions” and “now I see” link the stories of his various travels and discoveries. She works in watercolor and pencil to beautifully depict the explorations of von Humboldt, who appears alone in most of the cartoon-style illustrations clad in a bright red tailcoat that billows behind him as he hurries from one adventure to another. In the end, Alexander realizes that he, too, is connected to the world and is certainly not alone anymore. An author’s note praises Alexander von Humboldt’s work not only as a naturalist but also as a fighter for diversity and equity. He believed and made known that all races are alike in that all human beings belong to the same species. (PreK Up)
Conservation with Jane Goodall (Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists). Maureen McQuerry. Illus. by Robin Rosenthal. (2022). Putnam.
Jane Goodall (b. 1934) has cared about animals, especially chimpanzees, all her life. Jane’s early interests stayed with her into adulthood when she dedicated her career to studying chimpanzees in the wild and educating people about keeping them safe in their natural habitats. (PreK Up)
Ecosystems with Rachel Carson (Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists). Maureen McQuerry. Illus. by Robin Rosenthal. (2022). Putnam.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964), who expressed her curiosity and passion for nature from a young age, devoted her life work to studying and writing books about ecosystems. Silent Spring (1962), her best known book, was an early warning about the harmful effects of pesticides on the planet. Young children will learn about ecosystems and how important it is that we take care of them for future generations. (PreK Up)
Preservation with Aldo Leopold (Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists). Maureen McQuerry. Illus. by Robin Rosenthal. (2022). Putnam.
As a child growing up near the Mississippi River, Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) loved exploring the natural world. He thought that people should leave wilderness areas undeveloped, and as an adult, he became an important figure in wildlife ecology. His idea that people need to have places to go to see what the world was like before human intervention led to preservation areas that we still enjoy today. (PreK Up).
Restoration with Wangari Maathai (Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists). Maureen McQuerry. Illus. by Robin Rosenthal. (2022). Putnam.
Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) lived in Kenya surrounded by mugumo fig trees, but when people began to clear the trees to make way for buildings and other projects, she saw how the absence of trees hurt the land and the people. She dedicated her life to righting the wrongs of deforestation. She encouraged people to join her in planting trees and to begin giving back to the land as much, or more than, they took out. (PreK Up)
These four biographies in the new board book series Big Ideas for Little Environmentalists series are marketed for babies and toddlers, who will be able to handle the pages easily while enjoying the colorful illustrations, but the language suggests that an older audience will be interested, too. Parents and teachers reading the books to young children will need to talk about the meanings of words such as “conservation,” “restoration,” “preservation,” “ecosystems,” “communities,” and “habitat” and explain metaphors such as “When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.”
Each book begins with the statement “An environmentalist cares for and protects the world around us: the land, water, and air, and the animals and people who live on our planet.” The book’s subject is then introduced, describing how the person was or is an environmentalist. Stylized oil illustrations complement the narrative about their life and big ideas. Each book ends with the question, “What can you do to help nature in your community?” and double-page spreads depicting “little environmentalists” doing things like planting trees and gardens and going on observational hikes.
Greta Thunberg (The First Name series). Tracey Turner. Illus. by Tom Knight. (2022). Abrams.
This middle-grade biography of Greta Thunberg (b. 2003) supports the young Swedish environmental activist’s conviction that it only takes one person, and a young person at that, to bring attention to a problem that threatens all living things. Greta’s environmental activism started with her one-child school strike after she learned about global warming in 2011. For a girl who did not like to bring attention to herself, this was a brave undertaking, but after learning about the atrocities being perpetrated against the natural world by large businesses and governments, she was appalled that no one was doing anything about it. The earth is our home, she thought, so why weren’t people taking care of it? Greta’s courage in speaking out about the climate change crisis has gained her global recognition as a fierce warrior for the environment. The back matter of this informative and inspiring book with black-and-white cartoonlike illustrations includes a timeline, glossary, source notes, bibliography, and index. (Gr 3 Up)
Harriet’s Ruffled Feathers: The Woman Who Saved Millions of Birds. Joy McCullough. Illus. by Romina Galotta. (2022). Atheneum.
Hats with feathers and stuffed birds were all the rage among late 19th century American women with a “passion for fashion,” who went to great lengths to outdo each other with ever more elaborate plumes on top of their heads. When Boston socialite Harriet Lawrence Hemenway (1858-1960) found out that millions of birds were being slaughtered every year for their feathers, she was angry. How could she and her society friends overcome this “great big ostrich of a problem?” While she had to rely on her husband’s considerable wealth and social status, it was Harriet and her friends who eventually saved the day. Joy McCullough’s creative use of wordplay and alliteration is matched by Romina Galotta’s signature watercolor illustrations to bring attention to a formerly frivolous fashion statement that led Hemenway to cofound the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The women’s persistence in getting laws to protect birds codified eventually led to the establishment of the National Audubon Society and the preservation of birds in sanctuaries. The back matter includes resources and ideas on how to be a conservationist (and how to make your own pretend binoculars). (PreK Up)
She Heard the Birds: The Story of Florence Merriam Bailey, Pioneering Nature Activist. Andrea D’Aquino. (2022). Princeton Architectural.
Florence Merriam Bailey (1863-1947) was a contemporary of Harriet Lawrence Hemenway of the ruffled feathers. She, too, hated the use of feathers on ladies’ hats when she saw them on her first trip to a big city. Florence observed birds in their natural habitats and learned to identify them by their calls and song. She wrote books to let other people know about the wonders of birds, including one of the first field guides to birds. It was Florence’s mission to heed the call to protect birds from being killed for fashion and for scientific study. Her idea to use binoculars, cameras, notebooks, and her ears to study birds was taken up by others, leading people to hear Florence’s call as well as that of birds. The story of how Florence Merriam Bailey became the first woman fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1929 is related in the back matter along with resources for learning more about birdwatching and bird rescue. Andrea D’Aquino’s hand-painted paper collages with oil pastels and pencil provide both realistic and fanciful pictures of birds and their habitats. (PreK Up)
We Have a Dream: Meet 30 Young Indigenous People and People of Color Protecting the Planet. Mya-Rose Craig. Illus. by Sabrena Khadija. 2022. Magic Cat.
Mya-Rose Craig (b. 2002), who is also known as Birdgirl, published a column on birds in her local newspaper at the age of 12. During the COVID-19 lockdown, she interviewed 30 young people from different countries who share a vision for change and believe that world leaders who could take drastic measures to protect people from disease during the pandemic should be able to do the same to protect the planet. On the right-hand pages of We Have a Dream, Sabrena Khadija’s digitally created illustrations, done in bold colors, provide a portrait of each person. The left-hand pages provide profiles of the activists that include several paragraphs of detailed information on their life and contributions; an inset with their year of birth, ethnicity, and a brief statement on their activism; a quote; and a banner highlighting their dream. Their specific dreams address changes in government policies, shaping future sustainability, indigenous visibility and inclusion, an education system focused on the climate crisis, and biodiversity conservation. Resources and ideas for activism are on the back page. (Gr 3 Up)
Sue Corbin teaches literacy and children’s literature courses at Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio. She serves on the International Literacy Association’s Board of Directors as well as on the board of the Children’s Literature and Reading SIG. She also just planted a maple tree in her back yard and takes care of the many kinds of plants and animals who share her land.
These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG).