A gem of a small book, thoughtfully made for small hands and, with its heavy paper and sewn binding, loving handling.

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THINGS THAT GROW

A compendium of things in the universe that grow—including the universe itself—presented in an illustrated informational picture book divided into chapters.

Vast processes (the growth of mountains through plate tectonics) are combined with specific examples (the echidna doesn’t develop its spines until it leaves its mother’s pouch) to successfully explore this book’s ambitious premise: all things in our universe “develop and grow with every passing day.” This is a big idea for young readers, and because the topic of the evolution of humans occupies only two of the book’s 64 pages, it also underscores the important concept that humans are only one small part of an expansive, growing, changing universe. The book is divided into three sections: "Plants and Trees," "The Animal Kingdom," and "The Universe." Walden selects her facts and examples not only to inform readers, but to stimulate in them a curiosity that may propel further exploration. Stadtlander’s numerous illustrations—accessibly simple but not amateurish—along with the book’s small, unusual trim size (7.5 inches long by 5.8 inches high), give the book almost the look and feel of a child’s journal, which makes the weighty topics approachable. The only drawback is the book’s ending (a spread on islands rather than a summation of what’s gone before), which feels inconclusive.

A gem of a small book, thoughtfully made for small hands and, with its heavy paper and sewn binding, loving handling. (Informational picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944530-05-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: 360 Degrees

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Thought-provoking and charming.

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THE WILD ROBOT

A sophisticated robot—with the capacity to use senses of sight, hearing, and smell—is washed to shore on an island, the only robot survivor of a cargo of 500.

When otters play with her protective packaging, the robot is accidently activated. Roz, though without emotions, is intelligent and versatile. She can observe and learn in service of both her survival and her principle function: to help. Brown links these basic functions to the kind of evolution Roz undergoes as she figures out how to stay dry and intact in her wild environment—not easy, with pine cones and poop dropping from above, stormy weather, and a family of cranky bears. She learns to understand and eventually speak the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”). An accident leaves her the sole protector of a baby goose, and Roz must ask other creatures for help to shelter and feed the gosling. Roz’s growing connection with her environment is sweetly funny, reminiscent of Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family. At every moment Roz’s actions seem plausible and logical yet surprisingly full of something like feeling. Robot hunters with guns figure into the climax of the story as the outside world intrudes. While the end to Roz’s benign and wild life is startling and violent, Brown leaves Roz and her companions—and readers—with hope.

Thought-provoking and charming. (Science fiction/fantasy. 7-11)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-38199-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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