“First you have brown, all around you have brown / and then there are seeds / and a wish for rain…”
Surrounded by nothing but the barren brown of winter, a bespectacled young gardener and his coterie of animal companions plant the first seeds of spring. They patiently examine the stubborn brown, fret over the possibility of peckish birds and stomping bears, and listen for the green buzzing of nascent life below the earth. A gentle, wistful palette, exquisitely crafted woodblock and pencil detail, and direct, intimate language leave the reader sharing the same hope, doubt, and ultimately joy at the sweeping green of spring’s arrival. Preschool–Grade 2.
In this lyrical biography of renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle, whales move like sparrows; otters, ballerinas. Bioluminescent creatures flash with blue fire, like fireflies in open air. As much a celebration of the ocean’s grandeur as Earle’s personal story, Life in the Ocean allows us to enter “the blue heart of the planet” through Earle’s eyes. Claire Nivola’s stunningly detailed watercolors capture everything from the immensity and grace of a blue whale to the Paul Klee–like vision of the sea 3000 feet down. “After reading this, I have a mounting sense of regret for not becoming an ocean biologist.” (Eileen). Grades 1–5. —Tera & Gā
Chiro, a young bat, learns that he must make his first night trip alone. When he complains that it will be “…darker even than the water before dawn,” his mother explains that there are many ways to see the world. Some parents and educators will have to explain echolocation, but children will delight in this lesson as they see the light pouring from Chiro’s singing mouth. Chiro’s mother is featured as end-caps in this story, but her wisdom and tenderness are undeniable. Grades K–3.
Two Feiffers meet at the intersection of seriousness and silliness in this brief story about a trip to the zoo in which it is raining on one side of the car, but definitely not on the other. While maintaining a narrative that is clear, endearing, and humorous, daughter (Kate) and father (Jules) raise questions about the fallibility of memory and the stability of reality. And if the story is not enough, they include the real-life dialogue that inspired it as backmatter. The best part is, no one—not Kate, not Jules, and not the reader—knows what “really” happened that day. Ages 4 and up.