Natural selection lite? (Picture book. 4-7)

1001 ANTS

A line of ants marches toward an unknown destination against a background of successive double-page spreads featuring the various flora and fauna encountered during the journey.

The initial double-page spread, like all the others, has a stark white background, broken by stylized, black-inked, plantlike designs. The foreground of this spread shows a large, cross-sectioned, brown anthill. Its white tunnels and chambers—some containing ants and others with such ant necessities as seeds and aphids—branch out from the book’s center, accompanied by accessible text with brief explanations. The scores of black ants have a realistic body shape, with crescent-moon negative space creating comical eyes. From the start, red ink urges readers to “keep an eye out” for a “little ant in red socks hiding in every picture in this book.” This offers two advantages: extra fun along the way, and a cushion of relief at the unexpected, nature-can-be-harsh ending. The ant in red socks sometimes makes comments and often gets distracted. Facts about different animals and plants have been well chosen to spark curiosity, with sentences arranged informally around the colorful, engaging, and often comical plants and animals. Reading in this random order works well until the penultimate page, where an unfinished sentence along a thin, pink road leads to the next page’s dark punchline. This comes as something of a narrative sucker punch after this lighthearted journey that’s allowed readers to become fond of these insect characters.

Natural selection lite? (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65208-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Bruce Goldstone’s Awesome Autumn (2012) is still the gold standard.

HELLO AUTUMN!

Rotner follows Hello Spring (2017) with this salute to the fall season.

Name a change seen in northern climes in fall, and Rotner likely covers it here, from plants, trees, and animals to the food we harvest: seeds are spread, the days grow shorter and cooler, the leaves change and fall (and are raked up and jumped in), some animals migrate, and many families celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. As in the previous book, the photographs (presented in a variety of sizes and layouts, all clean) are the stars here, displaying both the myriad changes of the season and a multicultural array of children enjoying the outdoors in fall. These are set against white backgrounds that make the reddish-orange print pop. The text itself uses short sentences and some solid vocabulary (though “deep sleep” is used instead of “hibernate”) to teach readers the markers of autumn, though in the quest for simplicity, Rotner sacrifices some truth. In several cases, the addition of just a few words would have made the following oversimplified statements reflect reality: “Birds grow more feathers”; “Cranberries float and turn red.” Also, Rotner includes the statement “Bees store extra honey in their hives” on a page about animals going into deep sleep, implying that honeybees hibernate, which is false.

Bruce Goldstone’s Awesome Autumn (2012) is still the gold standard. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3869-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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