News & Reviews (Week of February 3)


Booklinks' January 2020 magazine includes two features, each with a Charlesbridge title -- Classroom Connections: Community Building, with The One Day House, and Classroom Connections: Collaboration and Resilience, with We Are Grateful!

Booklist's December 1 edition has an article, 'Instilling Wonder' Talking with April Pulley Sayre!


This is a Book to Read with a Worm
Kirkus Reviews - March 1

Readers are encouraged to find a worm and to employ careful observation techniques.Immediately after the title page, a bespectacled worm wearing a blue scarf—it acts as commentator throughout—reminds readers to be gentle when picking up worms and to return them safely to their places of origin after studying them. (Environmentally conscious endnotes both suggest acquiring a worm from a bait shop if one is not available outside and caution against introducing these worms into the natural environment.) Two children, one black and one white, look out toward readers as if hearing the words printed above them: "Stop! To read this book you are going to need a worm." Indeed, without a worm in hand, half of the text becomes moot. Readers—along with the two children—are urged to run a finger along the worm's body; to stare into the worm's "face"; to carefully observe worm sensitivities to alcohol fumes and light beams; to listen for the bristles called setae by holding up a paper-wrapped worm to an ear; to create a one-night, dirt-filled worm hotel in a clear plastic bottle. For a book that seems otherwise eco-conscious, it is a surprise that a glass jar used with care is not recommended over plastic. As the gently humorous text gives directions and nature facts, the whimsical worm's speech bubbles offer vocabulary pronunciations and tips about keeping worms healthy while they are under surveillance. The graphic art is lively and colorful, well matched with the text. For exciting, optimal use, expect brown-edged pages.

You're Invited to a Moth Ball
Kirkus Reviews - March 1 - STARRED REVIEW

Full-color photographs accompany detailed instructions for attracting and studying North American moths as well as basic facts.Early on, there is a candid shot of six kids sitting at a picnic table, verdant grass stretching out from all sides. (Five present white while one might be a child of color.) The children appear engaged in chatting and drawing pictures of moths. Superimposed in bright white type over the grass beneath them, conversational text explains that a moth ball is a celebration to honor "a spectacular insect" and invites readers to join in and learn more. Every page turn leads to bright, colorful photographs and further information. Layout, art, and text function together well. Without condescension, the text is ever fixed on its intended audience; after a thorough, illustrated listing of materials for a successful moth ball: "Did I mention we get to stay up late? Because we do!" photographs show the children setting up a sheet and lights for an observation area and then making snacks of rotting bananas and brown sugar to entice moths that respond more to sweets than to light. There are reminders to be gentle interspersed among facts that include differentiating between moths and butterflies, and the moth life cycle. The nature of the adventure assumes readers will have access to a private, nighttime green area in the summer as well as adults to help them. Entomological ecstasy for rural and suburban budding scientists.

Welcoming Elijah
Shelf Awareness - January 28 - STARRED REVIEW

Just as Jewish families open their doors for the prophet Elijah, Welcoming Elijah opens the Seder ritual and invites readers into the festivities. This heartwarming tale of a young boy and a tiny, stray kitten plays out entirely during the traditional meal as the story of the Exodus is retold and celebrated.Lesléa Newman's (Gittel's Journey) poetic text alternates between the boy's perspective and that of the feline: "Inside, the boy drank grape juice./ Outside, the kitten lapped at a puddle." Inside, readers are engaged with the customs of a Jewish Seder, like filling Elijah's cup, dipping parsley into salt water and singing (the activities are discussed further in an author's note). Outside, the kitten mewls and swings its "skinny tail." Susan Gal's (Bella's Fall Coat illustrator) atmospheric illustrations reinforce the contrasting viewpoints: the child bathed in light and surrounded by family, the cat alone in the dark. This variance, paired with foreshadowing in the early pages--"Tonight would be different/ from all other nights./ The boy knew this./ The kitten did, too"--develops an intriguingly suspenseful tone. Gal's digital collage, charcoal and ink illustrations switch between hot and cool palettes, creating a sense of emotional warmth. Her superb use of line gives a fluidity to the art as well as a tactile impression of texture--readers will likely want to cuddle the furry white kitten with the silky pink ears. Meanwhile, anticipation builds for the moment the parallel paths of boy and kitten veer to intersect.Together Newman and Gal immerse their audience in the beauty and joy of the Jewish service. This delightful, captivating Passover narrative can be appreciated by readers of any faith.

Language Arts (NCTE) - January 2020

Earth Hour
Booklist - December 15

This appealing picture book opens with children and adults using energy day and night, all over the world. Energy warms our soup, our bath water, and our homes. It brightens our cities and landmarks at night. But each year, at 8:30 on a Saturday night near the spring equinox, people around the globe turn out their lights in observance of Earth Hour. As the informative back matter states, that action signifies “a pledge to live more sustainably and conserve energy” all year long. Brief but effective, the even-handed text guides readers to scenes of people, usually families, often with visual clues in the background indicating locations on every continent. In the beginning, these scenes are brightly lit, but after Earth Hour begins, the same people and places are lit by the moon, stars, and aurora australis. Like the text, Luu’s beautiful digital illustrations create a positive, peaceful tone, depicting a variety of people around the world, united in their determination to protect our shared planet by conserving energy. A hopeful picture book introducing Earth Hour.

Booklist - December 15

Nini loves ballet—the leaps, the twirls, and the sparkly tutu. A week after her recital, she’s unhappy to hear that she will begin a new activity: baseball. From the uniform (no sparkles) to the equipment (“a lumpy brown glove”) to her position (outfield), she’s less than thrilled, and her attitude is unpopular with her teammates. After their patient coach explains that some professional athletes take ballet, Nini decides to try harder. And sure enough, the next time the opposing team hits a ball her way, she leaps, twirls, pliés, and makes the catch for the last out. Her team wins, and Nini renames the sport balletball. Flint offers a series of appealing watercolor-and-brush-pen scenes with fluid lines and pleasing use of color. The illustrations include a racially diverse cast of characters with different abilities (one uses a hearing aid, another wears glasses). While the story is a mix of reality and wish-fulfillment fantasy, young children are experts at combining the two. An optimistic, sports-themed picture book for aspiring ballet dancers.

How Many?
The Horn Book - December 13