Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mama Built a Little Nest

 Booklist starred (February 1, 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 11))


Grades K-2. Pairing elaborate cut-paper collage with rhyming couplets, Ward and Jenkins show the beautiful variety of bird nests found around the world. Each jaunty, lilting four-line poem describes a type of nest, such as the tiny spiderweb cup constructed by a hummingbird (“Mama built a little nest, / a cup so wee and snug, / with wall of moss and roof of sky / and silky, cobweb rug”) or a hole dug by a burrowing owl (“Mama build a little nest / by digging out a burrow. / It was a hoot, our little home, / a safe and feathery furrow”). Jenkins’ gorgeous, remarkably realistic illustrations fill each spread and show the birds and nests in lively, species-specific detail, from the fuzzy fledgling falcon on a craggy ledge to a pair of emperor penguins on an icy expanse, keeping their egg warm on the father’s feet. In addition to the intricate pictures and catchy rhymes, each two-page spread includes a brief description of the type of bird depicted, the materials used in making the nest, and how they are built. Young bird-lovers will adore this cozy, illuminating look into avian habitats.



Sparky!

 Booklist starred (February 1, 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 11))


Preschool-Grade 1. Here's how it starts:“I wanted a pet.” The narrator’s mother agrees, “as long as it doesn’t need to be walked, bathed or fed.” A librarian helps narrow her choices to a field of one: “Sloths are the laziest animal in the world.” After its arrival, our narrator hopefully names her sloth Sparky, but alas, he is as described in books. Sparky’s owner doesn’t mind too much until provoked by ├╝berachiever Mary Potts, who informs her that not only does she have a cat that dances but also a parrot that knows 20 words. What’s a sloth owner to do? Put on a show, promising “countless tricks” from Sparky! One of the wonderful things about this book is that there is no surprise ending. A sloth is a sloth. The show is as deadly dull as one would—or should—expect. But from that sad little event comes a moment of love so pure and elemental that it will affect readers of all ages. Offill and Appelhans have created quite a perfect package. The text is spare yet amusing and full of important messages presented in the most subtle of ways. Appelhans, whose career up to now has been in animated films such as Coraline, is a revelation. The enticing watercolor-and-pencil art, mostly in soft shades of browns and burgundies and featuring the artist’s hand lettering, captures a range of emotions, at least from the humans. Furry, flat-nosed Sparky, on the other hand, just is, and that, as it turns out, is enough.



A Snicker of Magic

 School Library Journal (January 1, 2014)


Gr 4-7-A delightful and inspiring debut. Mama has a wandering heart, which means that 12-year-old Felicity Pickle and her little sister, Frannie Jo, have wandered along with her in their battered van. But Midnight Gulch feels like home, and not just because it's where Mama grew up. It's one of those quirky little towns where there just might be magic. It's the characters that make this story shine: gruff Aunt Cleo and her tongue-tied swain; Oliver and Ponder, purveyors of unusual ice cream and baked goods, respectively; Jewell Pickett, hair-stylist and auto-mechanic extraordinaire; and her son Jonah, who has the amazing ability to make things better for anybody, despite his own difficulties. And Felicity, who sees words everywhere and uses them in remarkable ways. She's a girl who loves deeply and openly, and who creates her own kind of magic. Added to these elements are a series of folkloric backstories about feuding brothers, doomed romances, mysterious do-gooders, lost children, and a curse. Mibs Beaumont and her magically gifted clan from Ingrid Law's Savvy (Dial, 2008) would feel right at home here. As Felicity loves to say, "Yes.yes.yes!"-Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Gravity

 Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2014)


After stunning explorations of the Galpagos Islands and California's redwoods, Chin turns literally high-concept for a study of gravity's pull. "Gravity // makes / objects // fall / to Earth." This big idea spans three double-page spreads, as (in a bit of metafictive fun) the very book in hand falls to Earth. It lands on a beach, where a brown-skinned boy plays with space toys, a half-peeled banana waiting nearby. What would happen without gravity? Chin ponders this visually, as (with the boy clinging to a rock) the book and toys soar into space to comingle, mysteriously, with the trappings of a lemonade stand. A series of panels goes even broader-concept, as shifts in perspective show the moon drifting away from the Earth and Earth untethered from the sun's pull. The text tackles the role of mass in gravity's relative force before rejoining the central visual arc by echoing the first sentence. That array of objects--beach ball, toy rocket, now-mottled banana--rains down on a group of Caucasian girls, who marvel at the sudden shower. Clearly, it's their lemonade stand that's endured Chin's mischievous dabble with anti-gravity, as on the final spread, the boy juggles a sploshing pitcher, lemons and paper cups on the surrounding sand. With an elegant, spare text and playful, daring pictures, Chin's latest opus exerts a powerful pull all its own. ("More about Gravity," bibliography) (Informational picture book. 5-9)



Fractions in Disguise

Booklist (February 1, 2014 (Vol. 110, No. 11))


Grades 1-3. Instead of baseball cards or action figures, George collects fractions (illustrated as thick round discs mounted, trophy-like, on pedestals). At an auction, the tuxedo-clad boy competes against three rivals, including the nefarious Dr. Brok. The bidding for a coveted 5/9 approaches one million dollars when the lights go out and the fraction disappears. So does Dr. Brok. Armed with a homemade gizmo for reducing fractions, George follows the scoundrel to his mansion, where the boy must find the treasured 5/9, cleverly hidden in plain sight. A playwright, Einhorn manages to keep up the dramatic tension between the intrepid hero and the sneering villain while slipping in bits of fraction-wrangling information along the way. Using a restrained palette, cartoonist Clark boosts the story’s comedy and its drama with his exaggerated portrayals of the characters and their actions. An appended page tells and shows how to reduce a fraction, an idea that even noncollectors may find useful. This amusing book could help lessen the all-too-common fear of fractions.