A friendly introduction to science and a worthy addition to preschool shelves.

Harold The Wonder Dog Wonders How Trees Grow

This quiet, contemplative picture book gives the youngest listeners their first glimpses of science. 

In Bennett’s debut picture book, Harold the dog takes a walk. “He thinks the world around him is beautiful and wonderful.” After resting under a shady tree, Harold wants to learn more about it. He asks the bird what she knows about the tree. “This tree provides a safe place for me to live and to hatch my eggs,” she says. “See, I’ve built my nest in its branches. That’s all I know about this tree.” The squirrel knows that the tree gives him nuts to feed his family; the boy knows the tree as a place where he and his friends can climb and play. The narrative draws on the tale of the blind men and the elephant, that Indian folk tale in which men each describe the animal according to the small part they can touch—the tail, the ear, the skin, etc. It’s all about perspective. It’s too bad the blind men didn’t have someone on hand to synthesize what they were all seeing. Harold does, though, after he runs into professor Growgood (a clunker of a name in a book full of otherwise well-selected words). He answers Harold, “Why, knowing about trees and plants is my job!” He continues, “Trees are living things, but they don’t eat food like you and I do. They create their own food by using sunlight and carbon dioxide from the air.” With its simple explanation of photosynthesis, professor Growgood’s botanical explanation of trees and how they grow is suited to the interest level and vocabulary of preschoolers. Pleased with his encounter with professor Growgood, Harold trots home thinking, “I wonder how rain gets into clouds. Perhaps I’ll learn about that tomorrow”—hinting at what would be a welcome series. Bennett’s words are simple, sweet and carefully chosen. Together with the book’s soft-toned, colorful illustrations, they create a gentle world with just enough information for young children to absorb. 

A friendly introduction to science and a worthy addition to preschool shelves.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4904-0585-8

Page Count: 42

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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