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.

The Gift of Gerbert’s Feathers by Meaghann Weaver and Lori Wiener

The Gift of Gerbert’s Feathers

Meaghann Weaver and Lori Wiener, Authors

Mikki Butterley, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Feb. 4, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Geese, Migration, Serious illness, Death, Family, Love, Courage

Opening: “From the moment his eggshell cracked, and his bill first peeked out, everyone knew Gerbert was a special goose.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Gerbert is strong and brave young goose and has fun times with his family and friends, but he knows that one day soon, he won’t be able to keep up with them anymore.

No matter how much Gerbert eats, he barely gains weight. His neck is shorter, his bill smaller and his wings are shorter.  His family migrates every year, and each season he grows weaker. His feathers begin to fall out.

As Gerbert prepares for his final migration, his family rallies around him to make sure his days are filled with love and comfort, and he finds a way to show his flock that he will always be with them.

Why I like this book:

Meaghann Weaver and Lori Wiener have written a tender and sensitive story for children who have a serious illness, for children who have a sibling or other family members who are living with an illness. It is a comforting story about courage and love that can be used in many different situations, even if the family member isn’t facing death. It will also help parents talk about death in a gentle way.

Gerbert is a joyful, loving and courageous gosling. He splashes in the water and plays follow the leader with his siblings. No matter how small Gerbert is, he is determined to have fun.  With each season, he struggles to keep up when his family migrates. Finally, he begins to tire and spend more time in the nest. His family worries about the upcoming migration and know he may not make the journey. Gerbert worries his family will feel sad to leave him behind and will miss him.

Mikki Butterly’s delicate and beautiful illustrations of Canadian geese and their habitat, will evoke emotions. But they are also soothing and comforting.

Meaghann Weaver, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a pediatric oncologist and Chief of the Division of Palliative Care at the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. She works with a wonderful interdisciplinary Hand in Hand team which strives to foster the strengths and graces of children and families in the Heartland. Dr. Weaver’s favorite life moments are spent painting, dancing, cooking, and gardening with her amazing daughter, Bravery. Dr. Weaver dreams of one day returning to Africa with her family.

Lori Wiener, PhD, DCSW, is co-director of the Behavioral Science Core and Head of the Psychosocial Support and Research Program at the pediatric oncology branch of the National Cancer Institute. As both a clinician and behavioral scientist, Dr. Wiener has dedicated her career to applying what she has learned from her work with seriously ill children and their families to create new therapeutic, communication, and educational tools. She lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her family and several animals, including a pup named Tessa, a rescue cat named Tupelo, and a pond filled with goldfish, koi and noisy frogs. One of Dr. Wiener’s favorite pastimes is photographing the migration of snow geese.

Resources: There is no easy way to approach the discussion about a seriously ill child. But the authors have written a Note to Parents and Caregivers with sample discussion questions and a Kid’s Reading Guide for siblings who have a brother or sister with a serious illness. But, reading The Gift of Gerbert’s Feather is an important start. It is also a perfect book for hospital settings.  There is also a printable feather coloring sheet.

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.

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.

The Mess That We Made by Michelle Lord

The Mess That We Made

Michelle Lord, Author

Julia Blattman, Illustrator

Flashlight Press, Nonfiction, Jan. 1, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-7

Themes: Oceans, Pollution, Marine Life, Call to Action, Environmentalism

Opening: “THIS is the mess that we made.”

Synopsis:

Join four children in a little boat as they discover the magnitude of The Mess That We Made. With rhythmic language and captivating art, this cumulative tale portrays the terrible impact of trash on the ocean and marine life, inspiring us to make changes to save our seas.

Includes a back section with facts about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, ocean pollution, and Calls to Action for kids and grown‑ups to share.

Why I like this book:

Michelle Lord doesn’t shy away from showing children a realistic view of what is occuring in our oceans, particularly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But it also is an inspiring call to action for readers that is hopeful and empowering. Julia Blattman’s colorful and beautiful illustrations will capture children’s imaginations.

The snappy text is set to the familiar nursery rhyme The House That Jack Built, with each of the stanzas ending with “the mess that we made.”  First half of the books sets the scene about what is happening to the marine life that are being hurt by the plastics and trash that humans dump into the ocean. “This is the plastic, thrown away, / that traps the turtle, green and gray, / that rides the current through the bay, / that rocks the boat of welded steel, / that dumps the net, / that catches the seal, / that eats the fish / that swim in the mess that we made.” The second half enourages readers to take action, beginning with a beach clean-up day.

Lord’s has done an exceptional amount research for her educational book. Make sure you check out the back matter where she elaborates on each of the repeated phrases, describing how each animal is affected by pollution, and why plastics are particularly problematic.  At the bottom of each topic she suggests ways children can begin to make a difference: using reusable bags, disposing trash in proper recyling bins, using recyclable straws, and drinking from reusable water bottles. A third page focuses on solutions and activities. And check out the back end pages for a map of the Ocean Garbage Patches.

This may seem like a heavy topic, but it is one that children will want to get involved in. They will see the way that they can be helpful.  It deserves a place in every school library/classroom.

Resources: This is a perfect classroom book where kids can talk about the problem, take action at school and home to make sure they are helping to reduce pollution. And there are many clean-ups that take place to remove trash from beaches, rivers, lakes and  neighborhoods.  Check out the Flashlight Press website for even more resources.

Michelle Lord is the author of several books for children including Paterson Prize Honor Book A Song for Cambodia, Nature Recycles, and Animal School: What Classe are You?  She lives with her family in New Braunfels, TX.

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.

Seed Savers: Lily (Book 2) by Sandra Smith

Seed Savers: Lily (Book 2)

Sandra Smith, Author

Flying Books House, Fiction, (2012)

Suitable for Ages:  9 and up

Themes: Futuristic adventure, Gardening, Government, Friendship, Trust, Betrayal

Synopsis:

When 13-year-old Lily hears that her best friend, Clare, and her brother, Dante, are missing and presumed runaways, she is confused. Then she learns their mother, Celia, is arrested by the Green Resource Investigation Machine (GRIM) on charges of illegal plant possession — a tomato. It all makes sense now to Lily. They ran to save the future and the present. Lily is left behind and wonders why they didn’t take her with them. But they entrust Lily with the bulk of their precious seed collection, given to them by an older woman, Ana, a seed saver.

The only thing that keeps Lily focused is tending to the banned vegetable seeds she planted in vacant lots scattered all over town before the disappearance. As she rides her bike all over town, she keeps a look out for GRIM. Is she being followed? Lily hides her gardening activities from her mother. She is happy to make friends with Rose, who becomes Lily’s alibi for tending to her illegal plants. She also meets a mysterious teen from California, Arturo, who knows what Lily is doing. Has he been spying on her? Lily doesn’t know who she can trust.

In attempt to find out what happened to her missing friends, Lily sneaks visits to Ana, who has taught  her everything  she knows about gardening. Not only does Lily learn about a seed saver network that may be protecting Clare and Dante, she unearths a disturbing secret from her own past.

Why I like this book:

Sandra Smith’s futuristic adventure (2077) series for teens is timely, compelling and skillfully crafted. I like the seamless transition from the first book Seed Savers: Treasure to the second book, Lily. From the start, Lily discovers her friends are missing and wonders why she is left behind. In Book 2, readers will learn about Lily and how she will advance the story — her undercover activities, covert meetings with Ana that reveal more about the underground Seed Saver network, new friendships, and family secrets that will make her question everything in her life.

The characters are realistic, courageous, and believable in their efforts to keep the cause alive. I also like the diverse cast of characters. Both Lily (part Japanese) and Arturo (Mexican) are relatable. Rose is curious about gardening, but her odd behavior of disappearing for days is disconcerting for Lily. Ana is the wise mentor that takes great risks to teach the younger generation about the past. They want to support a cause that is important to them and they want to better their world.

This engaging and fast-paced plot is an ideal read for teens who are environmentally conscious and may have concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It also raises some serious questions about the future of the food supply in our country.  It is a known fact that large corporations continue to control more of our food supply, put small farms out of business and use more GMO products. Smith says that “the historical political references in her Seed Savers series are factual,” although she’s changed the names of corporations.

Lily is the second book in the seed savers series and is told from Lily’s viewpoint, after Clare and Dante flee. It is followed by Heirloom, Keeper and Unbroken. Visit Sandra Smith at her website.

Resources:  Click here at Flying Books House for discussion questions on the first two books in the series. They are perfect for classroom or book club use. May there be a day when all our food is processed and comes in the form of Proteins, Sweeties, Vitees, Carobs and Snacks? And check out the author’s note at the end of the book.

Sandra Smith is the author of the award-winning Seed Savers series. She has a Master’s degree in Teaching English and spent over twenty years teaching students of all ages English as a Second Language. As a child, Sandra worked on her parents’ berry farm and enjoyed eating from her mother’s tremendously large garden. She maintains that if you can’t taste the soil on a carrot, it’s not fresh enough. Today, she lives in the city with her husband, cats, and backyard hens. She grows a small, urban garden every summer. When she’s not gardening or turning tomatoes into spaghetti sauce, Sandra writes poetry or novels inspired by her garden.

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 author.

****Winner of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, reviewed April 20 on my website, is Darelene Foster. Congratulations! I can see your address, so I will send you an e-mail and get your mailing address. Candlewick Press will send you the copy. Hope you enjoy the book!