A sweet story that celebrates community coming together to create something wonderful.

ME, TOMA AND THE CONCRETE GARDEN

Two boys learn valuable lessons about the power of nature.

Sent to stay with his aunt Mimi while his mother recovers from surgery, young Vincent is less than thrilled to be spending his summer in a cramped city neighborhood. Soon, however, he meets Toma, a local neighborhood kid, and they spend their days playing ball and eating ice cream. Mimi asks the boys to dispose of a box of dirt balls that have mysteriously appeared, and what begins as a simple chore quickly becomes a project that breathes new life into the neighborhood and creates a sense of community that is stronger than the boys could have imagined. Larsen’s text works nicely with Villeneuve’s illustrations, channeling elements of The Secret Garden and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as well as such recent efforts as Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden (2009) in re-creating the drab neighborhood that slowly is transformed through the planting of flowers and neighbors working to keep them alive. The opening double-page spread depicts a city awash in grayish-green as Vincent arrives. As the boys begin throwing the balls of dirt (actually seed bombs) into the nearby lot, more and more color slowly seeps into the pictures until the garden comes to life and the neighborhood reflects all of the colors of the rainbow. Vincent and Aunt Mimi present black, and Toma presents white.

A sweet story that celebrates community coming together to create something wonderful. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77138-917-4

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Excellent for enriching vocabulary, developing creative thinking, and enhancing a love of nature.

WONDER WALKERS

Ever wonder what kids wonder about?

Two kids, likely siblings, take a “wonder walk” outside. They greet nature with awe and ask themselves (and, not so incidentally, readers) questions articulated in language that is spare and economic yet profound and beautifully poetic. Only wonderstruck children, confronting nature’s gorgeous mysteries, could express themselves so intimately, creatively, and originally. Youngsters reading/hearing this book on laps or in groups, and grown-ups, too, will be charmed, enlightened, and moved by these breathless queries. Ponder: “Is the sun the world’s light bulb?” “Are trees the sky’s legs?” “Is dirt the world’s skin?” “Is the wind the world breathing?” Occasionally, the walkers summarize their thoughts with a solemn exchange: “ ‘I wonder.’ / ‘Me too.’ ” At last, the exploratory journey culminates with nighttime, which evokes a lovely question of its own. The simple text is composed mostly of the duo’s questions; spreads feature one or two queries apiece. Each should be carefully read aloud to allow for serious listener consideration and response. At the book’s conclusion, children may want space to discuss, dictate, write, and/or illustrate their own questions/ideas about nature. Luminous ink-and-collage illustrations are lush and vivid, perfectly suiting the text. The pair are kids of color, one with long, straight, black hair and the other with brown curls. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 37.4% of actual size.)

Excellent for enriching vocabulary, developing creative thinking, and enhancing a love of nature. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10964-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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