Emily, 10-Year-Old Champion of Rainforest Animals in Need by Cathleen Burnham

Emily, 10-Year-Old Champion of Rainforest Animals in Need

Cathleen Burnham, Author and Photographer

Crickhollow Books, Nonfiction, Sep. 15, 2018

Series: World Association of Kids and Animals

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Global Youth Activism, Nature, Rainforest, Animal Rescue, Baby Sloth, Endangered Wildlife

Opening: High in a tree in a rainforest in Costa Rica, a mother sloth slept, cradling her baby close to her. The mother was sleeping, but the baby was wide awake. 

Synopsis:

Meet Emily, a 10-year-old girl, who is active in a youth-led conservation program to save rain forest animals in western Costa Rica. She helps care for an orphaned sloth at an animal sanctuary by taking it for walks along a jungle path and participates in other activities to protect local wildlife and their environment.

When Emily arrives at a local youth program, Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR), she and her friends perform a play about teaching tourists to not feed wild animals human food. Bananas and cookies makes them sick. They play is a good way to practice when they encounter tourists. Afterwards, they grab garbage bags and enter the jungle to clean up trash, plastic bottles, gum wrappers and food packages that can make animals sick. They also sponsor blue rope bridges to help squirrel monkeys cross busy roads and stay away from dangerous power lines. Because of their work, the titi monkey populations are growing.

The story highlights the impact young people can have on protecting local wild animals and preserving natural habitats.

Like the earlier books in this World Association of Kids and Animals (WAKA) series (Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon; Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica; and Tony and His Elephants, set in Thailand), the text and photos show a youngster deeply involved in caring for the well-being of baby wild animals in need of shelter, food, and lots of love.

Why I like this book:

Cathleen Burnham’s mission is to find, photograph and celebrate children who are united in a cause to rescue and save endangered wildlife around the globe. Her true and inspiring photodocumentary books are a call to children globally that they don’t have to be adults to make a difference. Emily and the youth of  western Costa Rica are passionate young conservationists trying to save rainforest animals through their organization Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR).

Burnham’s books inspire and empower children. Every page is filled with rich, beautiful and touching photographs that capture life in the Costa Rica rainforest and shows the delicate ecosystems and the gorgeous endangered species living there, including sloths, birds and a variety of monkeys. She also focuses on the dangers in the town of monkeys trying to cross the streets and shows the young KSTR activists engaged with tourists.

The conservation message is clear and blended into a glimpse of everyday life of child activists who are involved in inspiring small-scale, grassroots animal-rescue efforts. The story shows the impact young people can have on protecting local wild animals and preserving natural habitats.

Burnham continues to show that children can have a real impact on the world around them! Kids are not just the next generations of caretakers of our planet, they also can do things now to make a difference. The WAKA series are stories of kid power — real kids who inspire other kids to empathize with the wild world around them, to see how we are all connected on this planet, and to find ways to make a difference.

Resources: To learn more about the amazing things Emily and other committed children are doing to protect wildlife around the globe, visit the World Association of Kids and Animals (WAKA) and get involved. There is a special teacher’s guide available for classroom use. Make sure you read the Author’s Note about the story behind KSTR and the two nine-year-old girls who founded the organization. Burnham also encourages kids to ask themselves, “What do you care about most? What can you do to make a difference? Is there something you can do in your community?

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Copy of book provided by publisher.

Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno

Just Under the Clouds

Melissa Sarno, Author

Knopf Books for Young Readers, Jun. 5, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 8-11

Pages: 225

Themes: Siblings, Family relationships, Loss, Homelessness, Shelter life, Belonging, Difference, Nature

Book Synopsis:

Always think in threes and you’ll never fall, Cora’s father told her when she was a little girl. Two feet, one hand. Two hands, one foot. That was all Cora needed to know to climb the trees of Brooklyn.

But now Cora is a middle schooler, a big sister, and homeless. Her mother is trying to hold the family together after her father’s death, but they are evicted from their home. Cora must look after her sister, Adare, who’s just different, their mother insists. Quick to smile, Adare hates wearing shoes, rarely speaks, and appears untroubled by the question Cora can’t help but ask: How will she find a place to call home?

After their room at the shelter is ransacked, Cora’s mother looks to an old friend for help, and Cora finally finds what she’s been looking for: Ailanthus altissima, the “tree of heaven,” which can grow in even the worst conditions. It sets her on a path to discover a deeper truth about where she really belongs.

Just Under the Clouds will take root in your heart and blossom long after you’ve turned the last page.

Why I like this book:

I am always searching for books on homelessness.  And Melissa Sarno’s, Just Under the Clouds, offers readers a different perspective of how we view the homeless in a raw, heartbreaking, touching and hopeful way. Not all homeless people live on the streets. It’s a reminder that anyone can unexpectedly find themselves in a similar situation. When Cora’s father dies, her family is eventually evicted from their home.

The story is more character-driven than it is about the plot. Yes, the family moves from run-down apartments to homeless shelters where their safety is always an issue. But this beautiful lyrical story focuses a variety of relationships between family, friends and school. Cora is courageous and resilient and shoulders the responsibility of her sister, Adare, who is born special — her brain is deprived of oxygen at birth. Adare is my favorite character, because she has a unique perception of the world. She has a soft-song voice, says hello to everyone, stares endlessly at the sky, spins in the rain and befriends cats and crows.

Cora’s relationship with a quirky friend, Sabina, offers a happy balance to the story. Cora’s mother is an artist, who has to give up her talent to take low-paying jobs to support the family. When her mother’s childhood friend, Willa, invites them into her classy apartment, Cora is hopeful she can finally stay in one place. But how long will her mother accept Willa’s help?

The one constant in Cora’s life is her father’s “tree journal,” which he left her. He loved to map out trees in their community. Cora picks up where he has left off and it helps her feel close to her dad. She maps the trees around her, draws pictures and records seasonal information. There is a lot of symbolism for Cora ash she searches for her own “roots.”

Just Under the Clouds has a heartwarming message about understanding the struggle of others. It is a story that will create empathy among readers. It should be required reading for youth because the face of homelessness is changing.

Melissa Sarno is a freelance writer and editor with and MFA in screenwriting. She lives in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York with her family. Visit her at her website and follow her on Twitter at @melissasarno.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Copy: Library

Heal the Earth by Julian Lennon

Happy Earth Day, Apr. 22, 2018

Heal the Earth

Julian Lennon with Bart Davis, Authors

Smiljana Coh, Illustrator

Sky Pony Press, Fictions, Apr. 3, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes: Nature, Environment, Conservation, Ocean reefs, Rain forest, Medicines, Green spaces

Opening: Welcome to our planet Earth.

Book Synopsis:

The magical White Feather Flier is back on a new adventure to heal the Earth! Use your imagination power to make it fly and take you on a great helping journey.

The Flier’s mission is to transport readers around the world, to engage them in helping to save the environment, and to teach one and all to love our planet. Just press a button printed on the page, and point the plane up in the air to fly, or down to land it!

Bring medicine to people in need!
Dive below the ocean to bleached coral reefs!
Visit the city to cultivate green spaces!
Help the rain forest return and give its animals a home!
Explore the planet, meet new people, and help make the world a better place!

An inspiring, lyrical story, rooted in Lennon’s life and work, Heal the Earth is filled with beautiful illustrations that bring the faraway world closer to young children.

Why I like this book:

It beautiful interactive book that speaks directly to younger children and empowers them to be part of the magic of healing and loving our planet and its inhabitants. The spare text is lyrical and skillfully written with vivid imagery. Smiljana Coh’s gorgeous illustrations will appeal to children’s senses. She includes a diverse cast of characters and children will see someone who looks like them.

Readers are asked questions and invited to join the adventure.  They will be encouraged to use their imaginations and push buttons at the bottom of the pages to transport them to areas of the earth that are in need of healing. They  see the problems that exist and then are given the opportunity to make a positive impact. Every time they succeed, they are congratulated for a job well done.

There is age-appropriate geographical information about the planet and how it is divided into continents. Kids are encouraged to touch each continent, say its name and pick the continent where they live.

The book includes words to a new, special poem written by Julian Lennon, specifically for Heal the Earth. It is a lovely addition to the book and could be a stand-alone-book.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to support the environmental and humanitarian efforts of the White Feather Foundation, the global environmental and humanitarian organization that Lennon founded to promote education, health, conservation, and the protection of indigenous culture.

Resources: The book is a great way to approach the subject of caring for the earth, during Earth Day. It is a resource because it encourages children to discuss problems around the globe and ask a lot of questions about getting involved in preserving their planet.

Julian Lennon is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, photographer, documentarian, philanthropist, and author of the New York Times bestselling children’s book Touch the Earth. Born in Liverpool, England, Lennon is an observer of life in all its forms developing his personal expression through his artistic endeavors. He hopes that his kids book trilogy will inspire and educate children to preserve our planet for future generations.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Phoebe’s Heron by Winnie Anderson

Phoebe’s Heron

Winnie Anderson, Author

Crispin Books, Historical Fiction, Feb. 5, 2018

Pages: 226

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Nature, Birds, Wildlife, Colorado, Conservation, Friendship, Courage

It is 1900. Twelve-year-old Phoebe Greer, her family and Nurse Daisy move from their home in Denver to a newly built cliff-top cabin in Ridge, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The doctors recommend that the dry, fresh, clean air in the mountains may be the cure for her mother’s tuberculosis.

While Phoebe wants her mother to get well, she misses her busy city life in Denver (a dusty cow town) and her best friend Lisbeth, whose parents own Denver’s finest millinery store. The two girls have spent hours in front of the looking-glass parading with fancy feathered hats on their heads. They also have fun trying to teach the millinery shop parrot to curse.

Phoebe loves to draw. Her father gives her a sketchbook so she can explore her new surroundings. She follows Bearberry Trail which winds along Bear Creek and ends up at a breathtaking lake. There she meets a local boy, Jed.  However, Jed is a plume hunter, a commercial hunter of birds. He desperately wants to find a great blue heron, whose feathers are in great demand for women’s hats.

The two youth gradually become friends. Jed shows Phoebe the delights of the natural world in the Colorado Rockies, and their friendship deepens. They meet at a large flat rock in the lake, where she sketches and he catches large trout with his swift bare hands. Her views of living in the wild and nature begin to change her and blend nicely with her passion for capturing its beauty in her artwork. One day, Phoebe sees a magnificent great blue heron in the creek, which she sketches in her book. She does not tell Jed about spotting this bird, because she can’t bear the thought of this majestic creature losing its freedom even though it is “survival” for Jed.

Phoebe hears about the Audubon club that wants laws to protect birds from being killed for their feathers. Phoebe’s mother tells her that the movement has come to Denver and a chapter is forming. But Phoebe’s mother grows worse, and soon, things may change.

What I love about this book:

Winnie Anderson’s debut novel is wistful and poetic. Her beautiful words create vivid imagery of Phoebe’s new life on the mountain top. The setting is so appealing that it becomes a beloved character. The rich dialogue paints a picturesque view of Colorado in 1900.  You want to leap into the story and observe the untamed country with Phoebe and Jed.

This hopeful and heartwarming coming of age story is about a teen dealing with a sick mother, family relationships, friendships and her passion to draw everything around her. I enjoyed watching her transformation from a privileged Denver teen to a thoughtful one who observes and develops her own beliefs. The characters are authentic, most are good-hearted but others are privileged and snobby.  This creates a dilemma for Phoebe in her friendship, with Jed, when her father tells her to stay away from him.

Phoebe’s view about use of bird feathers in the women’s millinery business becomes unbearable for her.  She takes a stand with both of her friends, Lisbeth and Jed, and tells them she wants to work with the Audubon club to protect the birds. The author makes short references to the early Audubon Society throughout the book.

Phoebe’s story is loosely based on Sarah Orne Jewett’s “A White Heron,” written in 1886. This book will be of interest to birders, Audubon Society members, and anyone interested in the early conservation movement at the beginning of the 1900s. This is the sixth middle grade novel I’ve reviewed in the past year that includes birding and conservation. It is an excellent novel for teens interested in environmental and conservation issues. This is a thoughtful story to read as Earth Day approaches April 22.

Resources: There is a detailed “Author’s Note” at the end the delves more into the Audubon Society. This book is an excellent classroom discussion book because of the many themes.

Winnie Anderson holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University, and has had stories published in various children’s magazines. This is her first novel. She lives in Baltimore, MD, and Evergreen, CO. Visit Anderson’s website.

Greg Pattridge is the host for  Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*The publisher provided me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I’m a Duck by Eve Bunting

I’m  a Duck

Eve Bunting, Author

Will Hillenbrand, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 13, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Ducks, Nature, Growing Up, Fear, Courage, Friendships

Opening: “When I was just an egg, I’m told, I left my nest and rolled and rolled.”

Synopsis: One day, an egg rolled out of a nest and right into a deep pond. Now that egg is a little duck, and the water is still very scary. Jumping into the pond at all seems impossible, never mind swimming in a line with all his brothers. “You’re a duck, and ducks don’t sink,” Big Frog points out. Practicing in a puddle helps a little, while backrubs and snacks from his mother help a little more. Big Frog offers to hold his friend’s wing and dive in together, but our little duck knows that some challenges need to be faced alone. Even when they are very scary!

I cannot swim, and that is bad. 
A landlocked duck is very sad. 

Why I like this book:

Eve Bunting’s endearing picture book will make a big splash with young children.  The catchy rhyme scheme is beautifully simple and appealing.  Children will easily relate to this adorable little duck’s fear about trying to swim. Many other water friends offer to help him, but the little duck is determined to conquer is fear his own way and on his own time. This book is overflowing with heart and kids will want to cheer for the little duck. Will Hillenbrand’s warm watercolor are soft and gentle.

Resources: This is a wonderful read aloud before bed or in the classroom. It offers kids an opportunity to open up and talk about their fears. It offers teachers an opportunity to encourage children to name their fears, make a list and talk about how they try deal with a fear.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson

International Women’s Day, Mar. 8 and World Water Day,  Mar. 22, 2018 

The Water Walker

Joanne Robertson, Author and Illustrator

Second Story Press, Fiction, Sep. 15, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Water Conservation, Environmental Protection, Great Lakes Region, Indigenous Grandmothers, Ojibwa Indians

Opening: Nokomis loved Nibi, and Nibi Loved Nokomis. 

Synopsis: The true story of a determined Ojibwe grandmother (Nokomis) Josephine Mandamin and her great love for Nibi (water).  Her passion began as a girl when she would hop out of bed in the morning and sing “Gichi miigwech, Nibi, for the life you give to every living thing on Earth. I love you. I respect. you.”  She was warned by the wise chief that “the day will come when an ounce of water costs more than an ounce of gold. What are you going to do about it?” Eventually she founded the Mother Earth Walkers.

Nokomis walks to raise awareness of our need to protect Nibi for future generations, and for all life on the planet. Nokomis, along with other women, men, and young people, has walked around all of the Great Lakes from the four salt waters — or oceans — all the way to Lake Superior. During one walk alone, Josephine put almost 4,500,000 footsteps on her sneakers!

Why I like this book:

Joanne Robertson’s book is an important tribute to activist Josephine Mandamin and the many Native women and men who have courageously walked around all of the Great Lakes to bring attention to the condition of our water. Her message is not political, but a simple plea to engage people to protect the water, our most important resource.

Robertson has written an exceptional environmental and conservation story that even young children will understand. The language is lyrical and simply presented. Her detailed and illustrations show Josephine’s spunk and determination. The book is interactive and perfect for classroom discussions. Josephine is a strong woman who demonstrates what true activism really means. Youth will be inspired to know that Josephine is passionate about for protecting water for their generation and many more to come. She is a great role model for International Women’s Day. Many readers will want to join in her cause to protect the planet.

Josephine completed her final walk for water last summer. On April 20, 2017, Josephine, joined and supported by the Mother Earth Water Walkers, started out from Duluth, Minnesota then walked east for 97 days along the Great Lakes, arriving in Matane, Québec on July 27.  She traveled over 3,197 miles and put over 6,394,000 footsteps on her sneakers.

Resources: This is an engaging book for World Water Day, Mar. 22, 2018. The book includes a glossary and pronunciation guide for Ojibwe words used in the text. It ends with a note from the author inviting young readers to write a letter to Josephine to tell her all about what they are doing to help protect the environment. Her address is included. This would make an excellent classroom project.

Joanne Robertson is AnishinaabeKwe and a member of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek. She received her Fine Arts degree from Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig. She founded the Empty Glass for Water campaign to bring attention to the drinking water crisis in Indigenous communities. She works as a research assistant at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and continues to support the water walks. She lives near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Avalanche: Survival Diaries by Terry Lynn Johnson

Avalanche! (Survivor Diaries)

Terry Lynn Johnson, Author

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Dec. 2, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes: Downhill skiing, Avalanche, Extreme elements, Survival skills, Bravery

Terry Lynn Johnson has penned a smart and riveting adventure about surviving in extreme elements following an avalanche. This is a must read for those who enjoy downhill skiing and snowboarding! Every minute counts when you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

Avalanche! is the second book in Johnson’s Survival Diaries series. The stakes are higher in this adventure story and will engage and challenge readers from page one. The plot is realistic with many nail-biting moments. Pen and ink drawings add to the drama as it unfolds.

Twelve-year-old twins Ashley and Ryan and their parents are skiing the snowy Grand Teton range in Wyoming. Their backpacks are filled with usual ski gear, extra food, and survival items. Ryan and Ashley take a detour from their parents and the designated path to follow some wolverine tracks. Suddenly they  find themselves in the midst of a dangerously loaded snowfield that breaks away and crashes around them. Even though their avalanche lessons kick in, they have little time to try to turn a different direction before they are tumbling in the snow and debris that is sweeping them down the mountain. They are hurt and buried in snow.

Ashley is the first to dig herself free from her snow grave. But where is Ryan?  Will Ashley and Ryan be able to use survival skills they have learned to race the clock and survive a massive avalanche until help arrives? What do they do first? How serious are their injuries? How much time do they have before hypothermia sets in? Can they build a fire? How do they stay calm? Can they make a shelter in the snow? What about the wild animals lurking nearby? What skills do they need most?

The Avalanche! Survivor Diaries will have huge kid-appeal because the element of danger and the universal need to know what to do if you are unexpectedly caught in a situation where your life depends upon what you know. Johnson’s words of real-life advice echo loud and clear: Stay calm. Stay Smart. Survive. It is an important story for skiing families to read together. It is also an excellent book that belongs in every school library.

Resources: Make sure you check out the Author’s Note, and the Avalanche and Wilderness Safety Tips at  the end of the book.  Do you have what it take to survive? Check out Johnson’s Online Survival Game to see if what you’ve learned from Ashley and Ryan will help you survive.

Terry Lynn Johnson, author of the acclaimed Ice Dogs, Sled Dog School, and the Survivor Diaries, writes adventures based on her own experiences in the wilds of northern Ontario. She has been dragged on her face by her dog team, been lost in the bush more than once, and even chased a bear with a chainsaw. She owned a team of eighteen sled dogs for many years and currently works as a conservation officer. Visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge is the permanent host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

Pick a Pine Tree

Patricia Toht, Author

Jarvis, Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Sep. 19, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Choosing  a Christmas tree, Nature, Decorating, Family traditions, Holidays

Opening: “Pick a pine tree from the lot — slim and tall, or short and squat. One with spiky needle clumps, scaly bark, or sappy bumps.”

Book Synopsis: One of the most beloved Christmas traditions begins each year with … picking out a pine tree! Then bringing out boxes stuffed with trimmings, string garlands from bough to bough, and finally turning on the twinkling lights. Once that’s all done it’s not just a pine tree anymore — it’s a Christmas tree!

Why I like this book:

Patricia Toht’s lyrical and rhyming text flows nicely and pairs beautifully with Jarvis’ joyful illustrations. It reminds children and parents of the magic and wonder of this time-honored family tradition. This story will become a favorite family read each year. It’s imaginative and will stir up so many memories.

I like that the family is interracial, with a white father and dark-skinned mother. Other characters helping in the festive activity represent different ethnicities.

Jarvis’ large, colorful digital illustration are done in pencil, chalk and paint. They are all double-page spreads that are filled with a lot of detail kids will enjoy exploring. The illustrations have a retro feel to them and illuminate the entire adventure. Once the tree is decorated, the page turn reveals the completed tree in all its splendor.

I would recommend giving this picture book to children before Christmas to give them ideas and increase their excitement. The book is filled with so much nostalgia, especially for parents who remember a time when we all had real trees.  This is also a great classroom book. Visit Patricia Toht at her website.

Resources: Every family has its own traditions for picking and decorating their Christmas tree. My favorite activity is to share a memory about many of the ornaments your family has collected over the years. The author also has some wonderful activities for decorating your Christmas tree on her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

The Three Sunflowers – Los Tres Girasoles by Janet Lucy

The Three Sunflowers – Los Tres Girasoles

Janet Lucy, Author

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Illustrator

Publishing by the Seas, Fiction, Sep. 26, 2017

Awards: Seal of Excellence for an Educational Storybook and a Preferred Choice Award for a Kids, Storybook from Creative Child Magazine.

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Sunflowers, Life Cycles, Nature, Courage,  Hope, Harmony, Peace, Patience, Wisdom

Opening“Dawn awoke early one morning washing the summer sky in fresh new shades of pink, orange and lavender.” 

Synopsis:  Life in the garden was alive with activity. Gloria, a tall and wise sunflower, sprung up earlier in the season near a pepper tree. She was once a black and white seed in one of the bird feeders and was dropped by a bird to the ground where she planted herself and grew. Two smaller sunflowers, Florecita and Solecito grew beside Gloria.

Their day was peaceful until a hawk swooped down to the feeders and disturbed the tranquility in the garden. The birds flew off, but Florecita and Solecito were frightened and shouted at the hawk.  Through it all, Gloria guides and reassures the youngsters and reminds them of the nature and purpose of a sunflower’s life. “We are sunflowers, golden and radiant. Our job is to be loving and peaceful wherever we stand.” Peace returned to the garden, but later that afternoon a thunderstorm darkened the skies and threatened the strength and stability of the sunflowers. Once again the youngsters held on by their roots afraid they might tumble. Gloria reached for their stalks and pulled them close.  Their resiliency was tested in the face of a big storm.

Why I like this book:

The Three Sunflowers – Los Tres Girasoles is the bilingual version of the award-winning first edition, The Three Sunflowers. This version offers both English and Spanish on each page, as “a teaching tool and to bridge cultures by illuminating the universal themes, hopes and dreams we all share for all children.”

Janet Lucy has written an inspiring book for children with many gentle life lessons about staying centered when turbulence is swirling around you, being who you are supposed to be, living in the moment, being present with those we love and being thankful. These are all concepts children will grasp.  There is so much depth to this story and I had to be careful not to give it away.  It is also a story about life cycles, death, and transformation. Colleen McCarthy-Evans’s watercolor illustrations are exquisite and expressive. I like her use of white space. It is a lovely collaboration between author and illustrator.

The book is dedicated to La Virgen of Guadalupe, Divine Mother of compassion, comfort and protection. She is the inspiration for the wise character, Gloria, in the book. Her story and a glorious watercolor illustration of Her is on the back of the book. La Virgen de Guadalupe’s saint / holy day is celebrated on December 12. The author and illustrator are donating 20% of the profits to non-profits who provide immigration advocacy and legal support.

Resources:   Sunflowers are an international symbol of Peace. Lucy urges children to plant seeds of peace in their gardens. Visit The Three Sunflowers website to find wonderful resources, activities and a teaching guide to share with children. I was intrigued with how many virtues are included in this story, all great topics for discussion.

Janet Lucy  (left) is an award-winning writer and poet, and author of Moon Mother, Moon Daughter – Myths and Rituals that Celebrate a Girl’s Coming of Age. Janet is the Director of Women’s Creative Network in Santa Barbara, California, where she is a teacher, counselor/consultant and the mother of two radiant daughters.

Colleen McCarthy-Evans (right) is an award-winning watercolorist, writer and board game inventor, as well as a passionate fiber artist. She’s a co-founder of the Santa Barbara Charter School, which teaches conflict resolution along with academics and the arts. She lives in Santa Barbara, California with her husband and dog, and enjoys being in and out of the garden with her two grown sons.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Overboard: Survivor Diaries by Terry Lynn Johnson

Overboard: Survivor Diaries

Terry Lynn Johnson, Author

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Jul. 4, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Whale-Watching, Boat Capsizing, Cold-Water Survival, Survival Skills

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Travis and his family are on a whale-watching tour off the coast of Washington when disaster strikes. The boat capsizes, throwing everyone into the ice-cold, chaotic waves. Separated from their families and struggling to stay afloat, Travis and twelve-year-old Marina must navigate the freezing ocean water. It will take all of their grit and knowledge to survive.

Why I like this book:

Terry Lynn Johnson has penned a fast-paced adventure series for children about survival in extreme elements. Overboard is the first book in the series, with Avalanche!, Lost! and Dust Storm! to follow.   Pen and ink drawings add to the drama at sea.

The plot is realistic, engaging and the tension palpable. Overboard focuses on Travis and Marina using skills they know after their site-seeing boat capsizes in icy waters and on shore until help arrives.  What do you do first? How much time do you have before hypothermia sets in? How do you stay calm? What skills do you need most?

I predict this series will have huge kid-appeal because the element of danger and the universal need to know what to do if you are unexpectedly caught in a situation where your life depends upon what you know.

This is an inspiring and important survival series for kids and families to read together. It is also an excellent classroom book that belongs in every school library.

Resources: At the end of the book are U.S. Coast Guard-approved cold-water survival tips.  Once you’ve read the book, Johnson has set up a survival game on her website. Make sure you play the game!

Terry Lynn Johnson, author of Ice Dogs, is a real-life survival expert. She is also the author of the Survivor Diaries Avalanche!, Lost! and Dust Storm! She has lived in northern Ontario, Canada, for more than forty years. She’s a conservation officer with seventeen years experience working in remote areas and cold-water environments, and has trained with the Canadian Coast Guard. Follow Terry on her website.

*The publisher provided me with an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.