Sincere and life-affirming.

THE COTTONWOOD TREE

A single cottonwood tree gives its autobiography from seed to 80th “birthday” while text in a smaller font provides additional information about cottonwoods and their ecosystems.

The cottonwood’s voice is conversational and has a gentle rhythm for a pleasing read-aloud—possibly in two sessions for the littlest listeners. Even without the additional text, readers learn plenty from the cottonwood’s descriptions of such phases as seed, sprout, seedling, sapling, and mature tree as well as from its descriptions of landing in good soil; pushing off its seed coat and stretching; and being a friend and helper to insects, birds, and mammals. Each double-page spread includes a two-sentence litany of summary and affirmation, as in—after explaining about nesting birds—“I am nature’s nursery. I am a cottonwood tree.” Paralleling the tree’s growth is that of a young, pale-skinned boy. His return visits over the years are interspersed with the tales of animal interactions. In one passage that tenderly veers from hard facts, the man, now grown, tells his daughter (also pale-skinned) a Cheyenne and Arapaho tale about the connection between stars in the sky and cottonwoods. The ending is a reassuring reminder of life’s eternal cycles. All members of this riparian ecosystem—and the visiting humans—come alive in the line-and-color artwork, which includes a variety of perspectives and employs a unifying, soothing color palette. The accessible extra text for older readers includes cottonwood statistics, duck behaviors, and natural history, among other facts.

Sincere and life-affirming.  (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-88448-856-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so...

TOUCH THE EARTH

From the Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adventure series , Vol. 1

A pro bono Twinkie of a book invites readers to fly off in a magic plane to bring clean water to our planet’s oceans, deserts, and brown children.

Following a confusingly phrased suggestion beneath a soft-focus world map to “touch the Earth. Now touch where you live,” a shake of the volume transforms it into a plane with eyes and feathered wings that flies with the press of a flat, gray “button” painted onto the page. Pressing like buttons along the journey releases a gush of fresh water from the ground—and later, illogically, provides a filtration device that changes water “from yucky to clean”—for thirsty groups of smiling, brown-skinned people. At other stops, a tap on the button will “help irrigate the desert,” and touching floating bottles and other debris in the ocean supposedly makes it all disappear so the fish can return. The 20 children Coh places on a globe toward the end are varied of skin tone, but three of the four young saviors she plants in the flier’s cockpit as audience stand-ins are white. The closing poem isn’t so openly parochial, though it seldom rises above vague feel-good sentiments: “Love the Earth, the moon and sun. / All the children can be one.”

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so easy to clean the place up and give everyone a drink? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2083-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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In spite of the book’s flaws, dragons are very appealing, and tales for young audiences that model the scientific method are...

DRAGONS AND MARSHMALLOWS

From the Zoey and Sassafras series , Vol. 1

Zoey discovers that she can see magical creatures that might need her help.

That’s a good thing because her mother has been caring for the various beasts since childhood, but now she’s leaving on a business trip so the work will fall to Zoey. Most people (like Zoey’s father) can’t see the magical creatures, so Zoey, who appears in illustrations to be black, will have to experiment with their care by problem-solving using the scientific method to determine appropriate treatment and feeding. When a tiny, sick dragon shows up on her doorstep, she runs an experiment and determines that marshmallows appear to be the proper food. Unfortunately, she hadn’t done enough research beforehand to understand that although dragons might like marshmallows, they might not be the best food for a sick, fire-breathing baby. Although the incorporation of important STEM behaviors is a plus, the exposition is mildly clunky, with little character development and stilted dialogue. Many pages are dense with large-print text, related in Zoey’s not especially childlike voice. However, the inclusion in each chapter of a couple of attractive black-and-white illustrations of round-faced people and Zoey’s mischievous cat helps break up the narrative.

In spite of the book’s flaws, dragons are very appealing, and tales for young audiences that model the scientific method are nice to see. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943147-08-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: The Innovation Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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