Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal

Zonia’s Rain Forest

Juana Martinez-Neal, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick, Fiction, Mar. 30, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Amazon rain forest, Indigenous people, Wildlife, Nature, Environmental dangers

Opening: “Zonia lives with those she loves in the rain forest, where it is always green and full of life.”

Synopsis:

Zonia’s home is the Peruvian rain forest. It is her backyard and her front yard, her neighborhood and her playground. Every morning, it calls to her. Every morning, she answers: hello to the sloth family, greetings to the giant anteater, a run with the speedy jaguar…

One morning, the rain forest calls to Zonia in a different voice, a troubled voice. This is the story of that morning.

Why I like this book:

Zonia’s Rain Forest is a visual feast for the eyes and spirit. It carries a beautiful message that nature must be cherished and cared for. It is the perfect opening for discussion with children about the environment and the role the rain forests play in protecting our planet.

Zonia, is an Asháninka girl, who lives in the rain forest and loves to explore its many wonders.  Each morning, this joyful child dances and sings her way through the forest greeting all of her friends and cultivating goodness. Children will love following the Blue Morph butterfly that accompanies Zonia on her journey of transformation.  One morning she discovers that a patch of the forest has become victim to deforestation. It frightens her but she knows she must find a way to protect her home.

Juana Martinez-Neal’s book is a treasure. Her illustrations are exquisite and are created with acrylic colored pencil, pastel, ink and linocuts and woodcuts printed on handmade banana bark paper. The result is breathtaking and an important choice for Zonia’s story. She beautifully captures the lush green rain forest abundant with life. Zonia wears a cheerful yellow tunic, which accents her brown-skin and showcases her happy, sunny nature. Just look at that cover!

Zonia and her people are learning to live in harmony with their surroundings. But the rest of world is impatient and wants to develop the Amazon rain forest. Make sure you read the backmatter about The Asháninka People, with a population more than 73,000, A Few Facts about the Amazon, and Threats to the Amazon. The planet and their way of life is being threatened by greed and it impacts everyone.

Resources:  This is a perfect Earth Day read! Talk about the rain forest with your children or students. Encourage them to draw pictures of their favorite wildlife in the story. Encourage kids to get involved in projects for Earth Day, April 22. There are very simple things that can be done, like planting a tree in a home or school yard.

Juana Martinez-Neal is the Peruvian born daughter and granddaughter of painters. Her debut as an author-illustrator, Alma and How She Got Her Name, was awarded a a Caldecott Honor and was published in Spanish as Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre. She also illustrated La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, for which she won a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, which won a Robert E. Sibert Medal. Juana Martinez-Neal lives in Arizona with her family. Visit her online at 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.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.

Why Am I by Colleen McCarthy-Evans

Why Am I

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Author

Sarah Dietz, Illustrator

Seven Seas Press, Fiction, Aug. 31, 2020

Suitable for ages: 3 -103

Themes: Love, Respect, Humans, Animals, Nature, Life, Inspirational

Opening: “Why Am I / Said the Boy to the Sky / You bring us great joy / Said the Sky to the Boy”

Amazon Synopsis:

Come along on a journey through a dreamy day in our amazing world, starting in the dewy dawn and ending with a dance by the light of the full moon. We’ll meet charming characters and learn about their purpose and preciousness, through fun and playful rhythm and rhyme. This joyful book is a meditation that reminds us that every person, animal and thing in the world has special qualities we can appreciate, value and love about them. And we are all so much more than we believe we are. For ages 3 to 103.

Why I like this book:

Colleen McCarthy-Evans’s Why Am I, is a captivating ode to the wonder and mystery of our world. “Why Am I” is a universal question that children and adults like to ask and ponder. The lyrical narrative reminds readers that nature, animals and human beings have qualities that we all love, appreciate and respect — from the joy of a child to a kiss from a mother; from the sweetness of a honeybee to cheerful chirp of a bird; and from the motion of the ocean to our trust in the galaxy. The language is easy for little ones to understand and yet appropriate for older children and adults. Readers will learn to love and  respect themselves and the wonderful world they live in. This is a very timely picture book.

Why Am I is a perfect quiet time story that will encourage soul-searching conversations between children and parents.  The book is a perfect blend of gentle words and Sarah Dietz’s inspiring and beautiful illustrations, which will capture readers imaginations.

The Spanish edition of the book, Por Que Soy / Why Am I, was published on November 9.

Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end. The author has also created two pages of Discussion/Activities  for parents and teachers to use to spark discussions. For example: Take a walk around your school or neighborhood and name a quality for each person, animal, tree, garden, and park that you see. There are so many ways to use this beautiful book.

Colleen McCarthy-Evans is an award-winning creator of books and board games for children and families.  She is the author of The Little Blue Dragon. She’s a co-founder and former Director of Operations of the Santa Barbara Charter School (est. 1993), whose mission is to teach Conflict Resolution along with Academics and the Arts. She lives in Santa Barbara, California with her husband and dogs, loves to practice and teach yoga, and enjoys being in and out of the garden with her two grown sons, extended family and friends.

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.

*Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a review.

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Echo Mountain

Lauren Wolk, Author

Dutton Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Apr. 21, 2020

Suitable for ages: 10-13

Themes: Great Depression, Family Relationships, Nature, Accident, Healing, Hope, Friendship

Opening: “The first person I saved was a dog.  My mother thought he was dead, but he was too young to die, just born, still wet and glossy, beautiful really, but not breathing.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

When the Great Depression takes almost everything they own, Ellie’s family is forced to leave their home in town and start over in the untamed forests of nearby Echo Mountain. Her father was a tailor and her mother a teacher. Life is hard, but Ellie has found a welcome freedom, and a love of the natural world, in her new life on the mountain. But there is little joy, even for Ellie, as her family struggles with the aftermath of an accident that has left her father in a coma. An accident unfairly blamed on Ellie by her older sister, Esther.

Determined to help her father, Ellie will make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as “the hag.” But the hag, and the mountain, still have many untold stories left to reveal and, with them, a fresh chance at happiness.

Echo Mountain is celebration of finding your own path and becoming your truest self. Lauren Wolk, the Newbery Honor– and Scott O’Dell Award–winning author of Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea weaves a stunning tale of resilience, persistence, and friendship across three generations of families, set against the rough and ragged beauty of the mountain they all call home.

Why I like this book:

Lauren Wolk is a beautiful storyteller and her writing is exquisite. Set in the Maine wilderness during the Great Depression, her imagery in Echo Mountain is rich and poetic. Her characters are well-developed, with 12-year-old Ellie the kind of girl readers will want to befriend. Wolk’s plot is courageous, gripping, and humorous at times. Her deliberate pacing keeps reader’s fully engaged and wondering what will happen next.

Ellie finds beauty in a wilderness that speaks to her. When her father is injured, Ellie is resilient, curious and eager to learn the secrets of healing from an “old hag” living high in the mountain. There is friendship with the hag’s grandson, Larkin, who reveals a talent of his own. There are secrets, unexpected surprises and harrowing moments for many of the characters, including Ellie’s mother and siblings, Esther and Samuel. They all learn lessons about their inner own inner strengths during a crisis –even the hag. (Sorry, no spoilers.)

Echo Mountain is definitely a stand-out novel and I highly recommend it for teens. The characters will remain with you long after you finish. Wolk’s novel captured my heart and I will eagerly read it again.

Favorite Quote “I myself was two opposite things at the same time. One: I was now an excellent woods-girl who could hunt and trap and fish and harvest as if I’d been born to it. Two: I was an echo-girl. When I clubbed a fish to death, my own head ached and shuddered. When I snared a rabbit, I knew what it meant to be trapped. And when I pulled a carrot from the sheath of its earth, I, too missed the darkness.” Page 16

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet, artist, and author of the adult novel Those Who Favor Fire, the Newbery Honor-winning novel Wolf Hollow, and the Scott O’Dell Award-winning novel Beyond the Bright Sea. She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.

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

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

Dot. Goes Fishing

Dot. Goes Fishing

Candlewick Entertainment, Author, Fiction, Mar. 23, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Pages: 80

Themes: Fishing, Father and daughter, High tech gadgets, Nature

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Dot is all set to spend the day on the lake fishing with her dad. They’ve got fishing rods, bait, and lots of sandwiches. And since Dad always comes home from his fishing trips empty-handed, Dot has figured out the perfect high-tech way to make this the most successful trip ever: the Fisherman Joe Fish-Finder! All she has to do is put this amazing frog gadget in the water and open up the app on her tablet, and she and Dad can use sonar to detect all the fish in the lake. But Dot and Dad get a little more than they bargained for when the gadget gets eaten by a giant fish that is bent on traveling with it. Can Dad’s fishing expertise help save the day?

Why I like this book:

This is a clever and timely story about a father and daughter who have very different ideas about fishing. Dad enjoys making his salami sandwiches, relaxing in his rocking boat on the lake, enjoying the beautiful view, and spending time with his daughter. Dot is concerned that her father never brings home any fish from his trips.  For Dot, the fish always seem to outsmart her dad. So Dot goes high tech and surprises her dad with a “fish-finder.” Perhaps high tech isn’t always best — a great theme to discuss with kids.

Dot. Goes Fishing is a perfect summer read for children who are reading on their on and are preparing for middle grade books. The story is very entertaining for this age group. There are eight chapters with colorful and lively digital illustrations on every page by the Jim Henson Company.

This is new adventure is based on the animated TV series Dot, which debuted in 2016. Now, viewers can read about their favorite TV character in chapter books which include diversity.

Dot. Goes Fishing, based on a character created by Randi Zuckerberg, is the award-winning animated TV series produced by Industrial Brothers in association with the Jim Henson Company and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The series has received a Kidscreen Award for Best New Series, a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor, a Common Sense Media five-star rating, a BANFF World Media Festival Rogers Prize for Excellence in Canadian Content, and other accolades. Dot. airs on Universal Kids and Hulu.

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

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review

Dusk Explorers by Lindsay Leslie

Dusk Explorers

Lindsay Leslie, Author

Ellen Rooney, Illustrator

Page Street Kids, Fiction, Jun.2, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dusk, Summer, Play, Games, Fireflies, Explore, Nature, Neighborhoods

Opening: “The sun begins to sink. The neighborhood beckons…”

Amazon Synopsis:

It’s that special time of evening, when the hours and the possibilities seem endless: Light is fading. A buzz of excitement and wonder takes over the neighborhood….What outdoor adventures await?

Join a diverse group of suburban kids as they dash and dodge in classic street games like tag and kick-the-can and reconnect with nature’s simple pleasures catching frogs, hunting fireflies, and climbing trees. These explorers play, laugh, and make the most of their own front yards right up until their parents call out that “It’s time to come home!” But when the sun begins to set tomorrow, they’ll be back for more evening excitement!

This ode to the timeless magic of summer evenings spent outside will remind kids of the fun and friends that wait just outside their doors and leave adults smiling with nostalgia for their own dusk explorations.

Why I like this book:

Lindsay Leslie’s Dusk Explorers is a beautiful tribute to magical summer evenings. It is the perfect summer gift book. It will bring back childhood memories for parents and encourage children to explore the outdoors at the special time of dusk. With the pandamic curtailing a lot of play, parents can encourage kids to explore their own yards, play games, catch fireflies, gaze at the stars, and listen to the sounds of nature as darkness comes. There is so much to do and explore.

The text is written in a free-flowing verse that is very lyrical. There is a lovely rhythm that speaks to the  senses and beckons children to come outdoors to play. Each spread begins with: looking, calling, searching, hoping, waiting, longing, watching, wishing, and listening. “Calling for leapfroggers who love to jump over backs and fall down on itchy blades of freshly cut grass …” and “Wishing for firefly catchers who love to fling their nets into the dimming sky sprinkled with diamonds.”

Ellen Rooney’s illustrations are lively, colorful and show an active group of diverse children having the time of their lives. Her artwork is simply breathtaking as we watch the sun lower in the sky, fireflies flicker in the dark and the stars shine brightly above.

Note: I reviewed this book today in honor of what would have been my father’s 99th birthday! I hold so many memories of my favorite time of day as a child — dusk! That meant I’d spend time playing catch or throwing a frisbee with my dad in the backyard. Sometimes we’d water the grass to nudge the worms to the surface and then we’d snatch them for fishing bait. Other times we’d climb the ladder to the roof and gaze at the stars. And the entire neighborhood would become alive with parents and kids enjoying the evening together. I’m sure many of you will find this book very nostalgic!

Resources: Encourage your children to go outside. This could be a fun activity for both kids and their parents as the day cools. I remember playing catch with my dad, throwing the frisbee, riding my bike with friends and mothers around the neighborhood circle, and watering the grass to snatch worms from the grass to go fishing with my dad. Be creative and have fun!

Lindsay Leslie  spent her childhood summers playing all the games found on these pages. Nowadays, she still loves the outdoors, but she love writing too. She is also the author of This Book Is Spinelesss and Nova the Star Eater. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family and two dogs.

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.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming

World Bee Day – May 20, 2020

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Candace Fleming, Author

Eric Rohmann, Illustrator

Neal Porter Books/Holiday House , Nonfiction, Feb. 4, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes: Honeybees, Life cycle, Bee colony, Collecting nectar

Opening: One summer morning deep in the nest, a brand-new honeybee squirms, pushes, chews through the wax cap of her solitary cell and into…a teeming, trembling flurry. Hummmmm!

Book Summary:

And so begins the story of Apis mellifera.

Follow the life cycle of this devoted and extraordinary worker as she cleans the hive, tends to larvae and the queen, builds wax comb, and guards the hive from invaders — before embarking on her first flight to seek nectar.

Why I like this book:

Candace Fleming’s nonfiction book about the secret life of bees is a story about the wonder of nature. I have always been fascinated with honey bees, but I have never  understood them as much as I do now.  I am in total awe!

Fleming’s text is lyrical and full of suspense. It is storytelling at its best. Children will have a close-up view of the birth of a honeybee, watch her grow and instinctively know what she has to do to fill her destiny as a worker in the hive.  Her life-span is only 35 days.

Readers (including adults) will be captivated with Eric Rohmann’s breathtaking oil paintings that are larger than life. The illustrations are so detailed that children will see each fuzzy hair on the honeybee, her straw-like tongue (not visible to the human eye), and her antennae. The building of each comb in the hive is a marvel. There is a beautiful centerfold spread of the honeybee’s first flight.

Make sure you check out the fascinating information in the backmatter. It includes a two-page diagram of the different parts of a honeybee; factual information about bees and the colony; the various flight dances that bees do to communicate flower sources; how to help the diminishing bee populations; and National Geographic online video resources.

Resources: Many children are afraid of bees. I remember being afraid as a child. This book may help them with their fears if they can study and talk about bees in their classroom or at home. Set aside an area in your backyard or school where you can plant a wildflower garden with the flowers and thistle that may attrack bees. Then watch and count the different kinds of bees that visit specific flowers.

Candace Fleming is the author of more than twenty distinguished books for children including The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia, winner of, among other awards, the Boston Globe — Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, and a Sibert Honor.

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.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Welcome to Your World by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

Welcome to Your World

Smriti Prasadam-Halls, Author

Jaime Kim, Illustrator

Candlewick Press,  Fiction, Mar. 10, 2020

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes: Babies, Animal babies, Mothers, Nature, Natural Habitats

Opening: Welcome, little baby, / round your mam curled. / Welcome, little baby. / Welcome to your world.

Synopsis:

With lyrical language and stunning illustrations, Welcome to Your World takes readers from ice-capped mountains to the depths of the sea. Tender scenes between animals and their babies encourage families to join in the loving bond that connects them to one another and to the wonders of our planet.

This beautiful book is ideal for sharing with new babies, new parents, and children just venturing out in the world, as best-selling author Smriti Prasadam-Halls and acclaimed illustrator Jaime Kim provide both a celebration of nature and a gentle reminder to protect it.

Why I like this book:

A stunning celebration of mothers (human and animal) introducing their babies to their bright new world. Mothers develop playful relationships as they bond with their new offspring — a cheetah, giraffe, fawn, whale, turtle, eagle, polar bear, and elephant. “Listen to the creatures of the air and land and sea, living whole and happily, living wild and free.”

The rhymic and repititive text will appeal to children senses. “Look up to the sky…look into the ocean…hear the gentle whisper of fields…taste the juicy berries…feel the raindrops…” Such lovely imagery. Children will love pouring over Jaime Kim’s breathtaking double-page illustrations and looking at the detail of different animal habitats. There is also a gentle reminder that we need to protect nature.

This inspiring book is a perfect Mother’s Day book as well a lovely gift book for new parents.

Resources: This is a book that older siblings will also enjoy. Read it together as a family. Encourage children to draw a picture of their family or a favorite animal pairing.

Smriti Prasadam-Halls is an award-winning, internationally best-selling children’s author whose books have been published in more than thirty languages. Her titles include the Publishers Weekly #1 bestseller I Love You Night and Day, illustrated by Alison Brown. Smriti Prasadam-Halls previously worked at the BBC and in children’s publishing and television as a writer and editor for twelve years. She lives in London with her husband and three sons.

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.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Sleep: How Nature Gets It’s Rest by Kate Prendergast

Earth Day – Apr. 22, 2020

Sleep: How Nature Gets It’s Rest

Kate Prendergast, Author & Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Nonfiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Animals, Sleep, Habitats, Nature

Opening: Cats and dogs sleep curled up…when they aren’t playing.

Book Synopsis:

Giraffes sleep standing up. Sloths sleep upside down. Meerkats sleep in a heap.

From giraffes and sloths to horses and cows, every animal must find a way to get some rest. Discover the sleeping habits of animals around the world in this beautifully illustrated book that will spark wonder and fascination in the natural world for young readers.

Why I like this book:

Children will explore the sleep habits of their favorite animals in their natural habitats, making this a perfect bedtime picture book especially for Earth Day.

The narrative is simple and an easy book for young children who are learning to read books to themselves. This book is a concept book that introduces children to animals they may not be familiar with. It also has interesting and fun facts for children, like “Fish swim when they sleep and never shut their eyes.” Older children will enjoy the more detailed information about each species in the backmatter of the book: “Sloths snooze for about fifteen hours a day, high up in tropical treetops. They don’t move very much, but they do come down from their trees once a week to go to the bathroom!”

You only need to look at the gorgeous cover to see how beautiful and realistic Kate Prendergast’s animal portraits are. The warm and cozy watercolors are richly detailed. Readers will want to reach out and pet the tiger. Lovely presentation of text and artwork.

Resources:  Visit a zoo, farm, or take a walk in the woods. Observe how the animals sleep and point out their behaviors, their differences and similarities. Take pictures or draw pictures of your favorite animals sleeping.

Kate Prendergast is the author-illustrator of Dog on a Digger. After working for years in the transportation industry and raising her children, she decided to get an MA in children’s book illustration at Cambridge School of Art. She lives in London.

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.

*Review copy provided free by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Finding a Dove for Gramps by Lisa J. Amstutz

Finding a Dove for Gramps

Lisa J. Amstutz, Author

Maria Luisa DiGravio, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-7

Themes: Animals, Birds, Counting, Nature, Community

Opening: “Mom and I slip silently out the door. Today we’re going to count birds. It’s just the two of us this year, since Gramps flew south for the winter. “Just like the swallows!” he said.

Synopsis:

This year I want to find a dove.

Jay looks forward to participating in the bird count each winter with his mom and Gramps. It’s fun to spot different birds like a nuthatch, a black-capped chickadee, and even a golden-crowned kinglet! This year Jay wants to spot his Gramp’s favorite bird — a dove. But with so many different birds in the nature preserve, will Jay have a chance to locate one before the count is over?

Why I like this book:

This is  heartwarming tale is about a boy and his mother enjoying their time together outdoors counting birds. The boy grabs his clipboard and binoculars as they quietly step into nature, careful not to scare the birds. The story also involves community.

The illustrations are rendered in soft shades of blue and white, so that children can easily spot a wide variety of birds around them.

This book is a timely book to introduce children to bird counting and conservation. The annul Christmas Bird Count is inspired by a national citizen science project in which everyone can participate. Many hold special Christmas bird counts for kids. And there is a Backyard Bird Count and many other counts throughout the years. Great book for classrooms.

Resources: This is the perfect time of the year to join the Great Backyard Bird Count in February or one of the many other citizen science projects that take place through out the year. Visit the Audubon website for a list of count cirles near you. This year marks a 120-year celebration of counting.  And visit the Sonoma Birding website and the eBird website to do you own bird count any day of the year and track your counts. There also is a bird count check list at the end of the book.

Lisa J. Amstutz is the author of more than eighty books for children. She loves finding new birds to add to her yearly list. Lisa and her family live on a small farm in rural Ohio with Daisy the dog, two ornery goats, and a flock of chickens.  Visit Lisa at 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.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action (7) by Darlene Foster

Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action (7) (Amanda Travels)

Darlene Foster, Author

Central Avenue Publishing, Fiction, Sep. 3, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Adventure, Travel, Holland, Mystery, Friendship

Synopsis:

Amanda Ross is in Holland with her best friend Leah Anderson to visit the sites, while Leah’s father is doing business there. Top of her list is to visit and photograph all of the tulip fields. Amanda and Leah travel the canals of Amsterdam, visit the Anne Frank House, take pictures at Keukenhof Gardens, see windmills, and visit a wooden shoe factory.

Amanda is eager to find out what happened to her great uncle who never returned from WWII and was declared missing in action. What she doesn’t expect to find and fall in love with is Joey, an abandoned puppy. While trying to find a home for him, she meets Jan, a Dutch boy who offers to help, a suspicious gardener, a strange women on a bicycle and an overprotective goose named Gerald. Follow Amanda, an intrepid traveler, around Holland, as she encounters danger and intrigue as she tries to solve more than one mystery in a foreign country.

Why I like this book:

Darlene Foster has crafted another lively adventure story for young readers who enjoy traveling and solving a good mystery. Fans of the Amanda Travels series will be delighted with this new fast-paced book which has several different themes woven into the story, including a lost puppy and missing rare tulip bulbs, that beautifully come together at the end.

Amanda is an inquisitive and fun-loving character, even though her curiosity causes some mishaps and tense moments — TROUBLE — in the story. But she is a lovable character with  keen radar about people and always ready to solve a good mystery. Her friend Leah is quite the opposite and is a nice balance for Amanda.

Foster captures the gorgeous scenery of Holland through Amanda’s eyes as she samples wonderful pastries like  bankets, filled with an almond paste; samples traditional  Dutch dishes like Hotchpotch Stamppot, mashed potatoes mixed with carrots and onions; inhales the perfume of tulip fields and visits the world’s only floating flower market; visits a wooden shoe, klompen, factory; tours an operational windmill; travels to the top of A’DAM Lookout and ride’s Europe’s highest swing; celebrates King’s Day; and sees more bicyclists than she’s ever imagined.

When Amanda visits the Holten Canadian War Cemetery, history really comes to life. She learns about how the Canadian forces helped liberate Holland during WW II. She walks among the grave sites and feels proud. She remembers her great uncle who joined the Canadian forces in Holland and was reported “missing in action.” Her family never knew what happened to him.  With the help of the cemetery employee, she may find some answers. 

She also learns a little geography about how  Holland is beneath sea level. The country has creatively dealt with this constant environmental issue by building dikes and constructing homes on stilts that are buried deep beneath the ground.

Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action is the seventh book in the Amanda Travels series: Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask; Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting; Amanda in England: The Missing Novel; Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone; Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music; and Amanda in New Mexico : Ghosts in the Wind. Foster has written the books in such a manner that they can be read in any order, but I recommend you start with the first book.

Resources: Make sure you check out the discussion questions at the end of the book.

Darlene Foster grew up on a ranch outside of Alberta. She dreamt of writing, travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She also believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true. It’s no surprise that she’s now the award-winning author of a children’s adventure series about a travelling twelve-year-old-girl. A world-traveler herself, Darlene spends her time in Vancouver, Canada and Costa Blanca in Spain with her husband and amusing dog, Dot. Visit Darlene Foster at her website.

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.
*Review copy provided by the author.