Elephant Man by Mariangela Di Fiore and Hilde Hodnefjeld (Annick Press 2015) is a difficult picture book for older children about an obscure deformed man in history, one that was famous in his own way but tragically alone. Continue Reading
A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long (Chronicle Books, 2012) is a lovely illustrated book about rocks. I never thought of rocks as alive or lively and yet, Ms Aston has a good argument for it.
In an elegant cursive font, the text tells us that rocks “bubble” (with an illustration of molten rock), for example. The cursive font on each page gives a simple statement of what the rock is or does, and a print font gives details to expand upon the idea. Thus, “A rock is mixed up” discusses how different minerals are a part of each rock. I loved the contrasts given for rocks. They are “galactic” and “old” and both “huge” and “tiny.” The rock cycle “A rock is recycled” is also illustrated in the text, and the ways humans use rocks (“useful” and “creative”) also appear as headlines.
In addition to the educational value found on each page of the text, A Rock is Lively provides stunning watercolor images of the rocks discussed, with layer details and labels so the true rock enthusiast can know just what rock the illustrator captured. I’m most in love with the page “A rock is surprising” because it shows the gorgeous insides of geodes. The jewels sparkle on the page, and I almost feel like I’m looking at the true rocks themselves.
I must admit that I know very little about rocks. That’s why this book was so impressive to me. By capturing the essence of rocks in both a picture book simple headline and in the facts in the margins, the young reader and the older reader alike can learn and enjoy rocks as they may never have before. I felt I’ve learned as I read and reread the book, and the gorgeous illustrations have also let me feel like I’ve walked through an art museum of nature.
The Queen’s Shadow by Cybele Young (Kids Can Press, March 2015) is a most unusual picture book for older readers about how animals see. It is difficult to identify as a fiction or a nonfiction, simply because it has elements of both!
In The Queen’s Shadow, a motley gathering of animal friends have gathered at the queen’s home for a party. After a lightning flash, the queen has found that her shadow is missing! Using clues about how the various animals at the party see, the detective is able to eliminate the animals that certainly could not have seen what has happened.Continue Reading
For the Right to Learn by Rebecca Langston-George (Capstone, September 2015) is a picture book biography of Malala Yousafzai, giving younger readers a background of just what she was able to accomplish. I’ve said before that her story is inspiring, and I think this book did a great job of also making it accessible to young kids.
This picture book is for middle and upper elementary children both because the text is dense on each page (4-7 sentences on each two-page spread) but also because the concepts of discrimination and violence against girls who want to go to school is such a deep concept for the very young to grasp. The vibrant digital illustrations, however, give added dimension to concept Malala faced. Children may be fascinated with the difficulties around the globe for children like themselves. With the combination of the vibrant illustrations (some of them featuring Pakistani writing) and the intriguing story, children will keep reading!
I asked my son, age 7 and soon-to-be a 3rd grader, what he thought of the book. He was impressed that she was still a child doing the things she did, although when he saw her photo in the back of the book he said, “Well, she looks like a grown up though!”
How often do we take our chance to get an education for granted?
Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review consideration. It will be published in September of this year.