Imaginative illustrations and spare words present deep themes in this picture book. Norman Qwerty has ideas that are "far from ordinary." Afraid people will think them strange, he hides his ideas under his hat and feels completely alone. But when he creates a contraption that brings ideas to life, Mr. Qwerty realizes that he is not alone after all--everyone has ideas. As others use the contraption to manifest and share their ideas, they create a community that both validates and welcomes the creative diversity. (An opportunity is lost to add another layer to the diversity theme by visually portraying more diverse skin shades within the characters; only one looks nonwhite.) Strambini's detailed black-and-white pencil illustrations are filled with Rube Goldberg-like contraptions that resemble fantastical notebook doodles and are saved from monochromatic overwhelm by judiciously placed spots of color. A red-orange cravat identifies Mr. Qwerty, and the cloud-studded sky-blue scarf drifting through the story draws symbolic attention to the necessity of letting imaginations soar. Visual symbolism abounds, and astute readers, noticing something unusual on the title page, will know to pay close attention going forward. The book's theme is presented subtly; this is a story that rewards multiple readings with multiple layers of understanding. A picture book that celebrates creativity and imagination...and the courage to share them. (Picture book. 4-8)
Grades K-3. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by organisms that can eat anything: plants, animals (alive or dead), even oil and rocks? English biologist Davies introduces the strange realm of microbes: their minute sizes, their vast numbers, their diverse forms, and their varied roles in shaping our world. Simply written and concise, the text opens with comparisons that describe just how small these microorganisms are, noting that the picture of an ant would need to be as big as a whale in order for the millions of microbes on its antenna to be visible. While the analogy comparing the number of microbes in a teaspoon of soil to the population of India may be challenging for some young children to grasp, the colorful painting illustrating the idea could serve as a jumping-off point for further discussion. The information that some microbes cause illness is placed within the context of the many amazing things they accomplish. Reminiscent of Alice and Martin Provensen’s artwork in its combination of formal structure and amiable tone, Sutton’s large-scale illustrations help children to visualize microorganisms and processes that are too small to see. The sequence of simple images illustrating multiplying microbes is quite effective. A handsome and rewarding picture book about the power of tiny creatures.
K-Gr 3-Before he was an inventor, before he was a statesman, before he was a printer, Franklin was a young son of a soapmaker with big ideas and a penchant for swimming in the Charles River of Boston. This made him a bit of an odd duck at the time, as many people of the 18th century believed swimming could make them sick. With this "mostly true story," Rosenstock shares how even as a boy, Franklin possessed a powerful curiosity and a can-do attitude that led him to create swim paddles for his feet and hands that would help him move faster and better, much like the fish he observed in the river. The alliterative, sibilant text is a rollicking read to share aloud with young students ("where he slid off his stinky shoes, stripped off his sweaty stockings, squirmed out of his sticky shirt, shed his steamy breeches, and splashed in"). There is plenty of emphasis on words and phrases that are highlighted by colorful and distinct typefaces, some sliding down the page or shaped like a watery wave. The watercolor and ink artwork conveys joy and motion, with young Ben splashing into the water, gleefully trying out his fins. An extensive bibliography, source notes for quotations, and a time line of Franklin's life add to the veracity and strength of this story. This is a fun introduction to one of the nation's founding fathers and a solid addition to collections needing a different perspective on this American icon.-Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PreS-Gr 1-Readers will fall in love with Maple, whose parents planted a tree in her honor when she was "still a whisper." Each page turn shows the child growing, playing, and seeking refuge under her leafy companion. She sometimes longs for the friendship of someone who can play with her ("The tree wasn't very good at throwing snowballs") and wonders if the tree feels the same way. One day, Maple is surprised to realize that there's a sapling growing next to her tree, and she soon discovers that a sibling of her very own is on the way. The crispness of Nichols's lush, leafy illustrations on each thick white page helps Maple's adventures around the little sapling stand out. This may be Nichols's debut picture book, but the only thing green about this effort is the perfect shade of a maple leaf. This is a fresh addition to the standard new sibling fare, and young naturalists will identify with Maple's adventurous and tender spirit.-Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Grades 4-7. Marrill is used to adventure; she and her parents travel the world so much that she has never lived in one place for more than six months. But after a sailing ship emerges in the wavering heat mirage of an Arizona parking lot, and Marrill finds herself stuck aboard, she is in for her biggest adventure yet. Desperate to find a way back to her family, she recruits the help of the wizard Ardent and his crew, as well as a young boy, Fin, whom everyone except Marrill forgets as soon as he is out of their view. While sailing on the Pirate Stream, a body of water that connects the known universe, the adventurers race to find pieces of a cleverly imagined map to everywhere, before an evil wizard can get them first. Ryan and Davis’ swashbuckling quest features fantastic world building, gnarly creatures, and a villain who is both spooky and formidable. Each new location is a treasure, and even the ships themselves are full of character. Ardent’s ship, for instance, is manned by a giant made of rope (he handles all the rigging, naturally). The unique details, expert plotting, charming characters, and comic interludes combine in a tantalizing read that’s made even more appealing by the promise that the story will continue in future volumes.