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BIG TREE DOWN!

Community togetherness at its best in this celebration of a tree.

A beloved tree brings the town together even after it is toppled in a storm.

Big Tree is “shelter, shade, hiding place. Just right for sharing secrets, leaning, and dreaming.” The landmark is the meeting place in town. But then a storm strikes. The huge noise of the falling tree, the car alarms going off, and the fact that the power goes out all have neighbors leaning out their windows. They spy “a patch of sky that wasn’t there before.” Lawlor nicely enfolds a safety lesson into the tale: the narrator’s father calls 911 and reports the downed power line. Community workers arrive to take care of it: the police, the linemen, the forestry crew. Meanwhile, neighbors of all ages and races gather as a community to talk about Big Tree, share food, cook over fires, and sing. The next day, the remnants of Big Tree are ground away and grass is planted. The community feels the loss keenly but also recognizes what Big Tree has left behind: firewood, mulch, branches for artwork, and more. On the final page, the narrator’s interracial family (a white man, a darker-skinned woman, and their two children) is shown planting a new sapling. “Meet me at Little Tree.” Gordon’s richly colored illustrations portray the togetherness that is sometimes still found in small towns or urban neighborhoods.

Community togetherness at its best in this celebration of a tree. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3661-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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ASTRONAUT ANNIE

A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories.

What does Annie want to be?

As career day approaches, Annie wants to keep her job choice secret until her family sees her presentation at school. Readers will figure it out, however, through the title and clues Tadgell incorporates into the illustrations. Family members make guesses about her ambitions that are tied to their own passions, although her brother watches as she completes her costume in a bedroom with a Mae Jemison poster, starry décor, and a telescope. There’s a celebratory mood at the culminating presentation, where Annie says she wants to “soar high through the air” like her basketball-playing mother, “explore faraway places” like her hiker dad, and “be brave and bold” like her baker grandmother (this feels forced, but oven mitts are part of her astronaut costume) so “the whole world will hear my exciting stories” like her reporter grandfather. Annie jumps off a chair to “BLAST OFF” in a small illustration superimposed on a larger picture depicting her floating in space with a reddish ground below. It’s unclear if Annie imagines this scene or if it’s her future-self exploring Mars, but either scenario fits the aspirational story. Backmatter provides further reading suggestions and information about the moon and four women astronauts, one of whom is Jemison. Annie and her family are all black.

A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88448-523-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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