A heartfelt snapshot of a way of life.

READ REVIEW

TO LIVE ON AN ISLAND

A wide-format book in a style and subject matter reminiscent of Robert McCloskey’s old favorite Time of Wonder, this picture book describes life on an island in the San Juans, off the Washington coast.

An unnamed child of about 12 is seen waking up to the horn of the ferry, hiking through woods to get to the school bus stop, taking a field trip to the beach, collecting driftwood, catching crabs, kayaking, paddleboarding with friends, and generally enjoying the healthy outdoor pursuits of island life. Communication between an island and the mainland can take a while, and the mail truck and the local floatplanes are very important. Island residents get to experience all kinds of wildlife, from otters to orcas, and must rely on their own resources during storms and power outages. As the book states, “When you live on an island, things are different. Sometimes harder. Sometimes sweeter. Sometimes quieter. / Always magical.” Person’s soft watercolors convey this magic through a mix of close-ups and leisurely landscapes, with postcardlike insets of buildings and activities. The second-person narrative on each spread describes the child’s daily experiences, and supplemental panels give more detailed information about the natural world and animals special to the island, such as bald eagles and orcas. Both the protagonist and most of the secondary figures depicted seem white.

A heartfelt snapshot of a way of life. (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63217-181-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity

THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO

When the war comes to Syria, many flee, but Alaa stays in his beloved city, Aleppo, where he continues to work as an ambulance driver and helps the wounded to safety.

Day after day, he misses his family and friends who have left, wondering where they are and how they are doing. His neighborhood empties—except for cats! However, these cats are affected by the conflict too; they’re left behind with shelters destroyed and food and water stringently limited. Alaa, who has a big heart, starts taking care of them using the little money he has. The love between man and cats multiplies, and many people from around the world step up to help. Soon, the cats of Aleppo get a pleasant shelter set in a courtyard. However, Alaa does not stop there and goes on to help other animals and more people, spreading joy, love, and hope. Based on a true story, this picture book is distinctive for its engaging narrative and impeccable illustrations. It is also enriched with notes from Alaa himself (the real one) as well as the authors and illustrator. The often-dramatic images offer a glimpse of the city prior to the conflict and a window on the real people who experience war and try to survive and help others around them.

A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity . (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1378-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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