From picture books featuring amazing and amusing creatures to a fictional account of a difficult yet ultimately hopeful childhood and an inspiring biography of a great artist, the five books featured in this roundup have something to offer children of all ages.
Room for More
by Michelle Kadarusman and Maggie Zeng
Pajama Press, 32 pages, $17.95
As a wildfire devastates the Australian bush, wombat duo Dig and Scratch feel glad that they have a safe, cool burrow to hide in. However, when Dig notices that other animals are not so lucky, he starts inviting them into the burrow, which draws complaints from Scratch. Dig first invites a pair of wallabies into their home, followed by a koala and then a tiger snake, with Scratch getting increasingly angry as each new arrival moves in. While Dig is convinced that there is still room for more, Scratch doesn’t want any other animals making use of their home, but when the burrow is flooded by a sudden rain burst, Scratch comes to realize that having a bunch of fellow creatures around could prove very helpful. In Room for More, Michelle Kadarusman uses the humorous story of an eclectic group of animals sheltering in a small burrow to explore the serious issues of environmental catastrophes and displaced refugees with young readers, while Maggie Zeng’s delightful illustrations really bring the different animals’ personalities to life.
These Are Not the Words
Amanda West Lewis
Groundwood Books, 216 pages, $18.99
Based on events from her own childhood in New York City during the 1960s, Amanda West Lewis’s These Are Not the Words is a powerful account of a young girl realizing that her parents are both flawed individuals with problems that she cannot solve, no matter how much she wants to help them. Missy’s mother has gone back to school to pursue her dream of becoming an artist, while her father spends his days working in advertising and his nights listening to jazz in Harlem and the Village. Missy shares his love of jazz and often accompanies him to clubs and bars, and the two of them both enjoy writing poetry about their experiences. Yet, it becomes clear through his poems that her father is struggling with alcohol and drug problems, which eventually prompts Missy’s mother to decide that she and Missy need a fresh start. Missy has to leave everything she cares about behind and adapt to a new life as a latchkey kid while her mother works to support them. Although Missy is reluctant to give up on getting her family back together, she eventually comes to learn that change is sometimes necessary.
The Whale Who Swam Through Time
by Alex Boersma and Nick Pyenson
Roaring Brook Press, 48 pages, $19.99
Around two hundred years ago, a bowhead whale was born. As a member of the longest-living mammal species in the world, the bowhead whale was destined to have a lengthy and interesting existence. Indeed, over the course of a long life spent in the Arctic, the whale witnessed many dramatic changes, most notably the shift from her habitat being one characterized by peace and solitude to the arrival of humans and their ships and oil rigs. With The Whale Who Swam Through Time, Alex Boersma has written a non-fiction picture book that beautifully captures the majesty of the natural world and vividly portrays the changes that are taking place in the environment, highlighting the need for humans to alter their ways and take action to protect their fellow creatures. The illustrations by Nick Pyenson are clear and detailed, revealing the beauty and wonder of the bowhead whale and showing just how important the preservation of the environment really is.
by Alison Goldberg and Elizabeth Zunon
Lee & Low Books, 32 pages, $20.95
In Bottle Tops, Alison Goldberg tells the remarkable life story of Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, whose work made from discarded bottle tops is prized and displayed around the world. While studying art at the University of Ghana, El noted that much of the artists and art being discussed clearly fitted within the European tradition, with traditional Ghanaian art being largely ignored. Seeking to expand his perspective, El explored the stories and approaches of his fellow Ghanaians, which often involved the use of recycled and upcycled materials. After honing his skills by experimenting with different mediums, El discovered a bag of bright bottle caps and decided to tell their story by stitching the caps together into a series of flowing tapestries that capture the history, culture, and people of Ghana. From there, the popularity of his bottle top sculptures grew until his work was world renowned. The words by Goldberg provide a fascinating introduction to the life and art of El Anatsui, while the illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon nicely capture the intricacy and beauty of his work.
Oceans of Love
by Janet Lawler
Viking Books for Young Readers, 32 pages, $17.99
The ocean is home to myriad magnificent creatures, ranging from majestic whales and clever dolphins to fascinating hermit crabs and perplexing jellyfish. Janet Lawler’s Oceans of Love takes young readers on a fantastical underwater adventure as they learn about how mother sea creatures care for and rear their little ones. From a mother manta ray teaching her baby to skim and slide through the sea to a mother hermit crab fitting her youngling for a new shell and a mother minnow enrolling her offspring in minnow school, a fun-filled variety of mother and child relationships are featured. Using clever, gentle rhymes that are perfect for reading out loud, the story explains a universal truth for humans, animals, and sea creatures: mothers always want to care for their babies in their own special way. Holly Clifton-Brown’s exquisite watercolor illustrations really bring the heartwarming story to life, showcasing a broad range of mothers and babies in their natural undersea environment.