The simple is juxtaposed with the challenging, making the book both flexible and hard to pin down, audience-wise.

SORTING THROUGH SPRING

From the Math in Nature series

Flatt and Barron’s second in the Math in Nature series solves many of the first’s problems, though the rhythms and rhymes remain inconsistent, and there is still no answer key.

Flatt leads readers through sorting, charts and comparisons, though they will need familiarity with these concepts—math is tested but not taught in these pages, and the questions are not always the most basic. “If 8 hummingbird eggs equal 4 robin eggs, which two ratios are correct: 3 to 1, 8 to 4, 5 to 1, 2 to 1?”  On a page that finds the fox family wondering what Father will catch: “Is their dinner impossibly, unlikely, likely, or certainly a vole? A gray squirrel? A rabbit? A cat?” Several pages also ask open-ended questions, allowing readers to both construct meaning from the artwork and explain it. “Nature Notes” give a few brief facts about the featured creatures. As in Counting on Fall (2012), Barron’s gorgeous cut-paper collages are certainly the highlight, drenching every page in spring sights and colors. Objects are easy to delineate from the background, though that doesn’t always mean that the answers are easy to find: On the schooling smelt page, readers are asked to find two patterns. One is a simple, ABA repeating pattern, while the other asks readers to notice that the groups of fish increase by two.

The simple is juxtaposed with the challenging, making the book both flexible and hard to pin down, audience-wise. (Math picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-926973-59-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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Sweet—and savory.

THE KEEPER OF WILD WORDS

When a girl visits her grandmother, a writer and “grand friend,” she is seeking something special to share at show and tell on the first day of school.

Before Brook can explain, Mimi expresses concern that certain words describing the natural world will disappear if someone doesn’t care for and use them. (An author’s note explains the author’s motivation: She had read of the removal of 100 words about outdoor phenomena from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.) The duo sets out to search for and experience the 19 words on Mimi’s list, from “acorn” and “buttercup” to “violet” and “willow.” Kloepper’s soft illustrations feature green and brown earth tones that frame the white, matte pages; bursts of red, purple, and other spot colors enliven the scenes. Both Mimi and Brook are depicted as white. The expedition is described in vivid language, organized as free verse in single sentences or short paragraphs. Key words are printed in color in a larger display type and capital letters. Sensory details allow the protagonist to hear, see, smell, taste, and hold the wild: “ ‘Quick! Make a wish!’ said Mimi, / holding out a DANDELION, / fairy dust sitting on a stem. / ‘Blow on it and the seeds will fly. / Your tiny wishes in the air.’ ” It’s a day of wonder, with a touch of danger and a solution to Brook’s quest. The last page forms an envelope for readers’ own vocabulary collections.

Sweet—and savory. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7073-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular!

ROT, THE BRAVEST IN THE WORLD!

A “scaredy-spud” puts on his brave face.

All “mutant potatoes” love mud. Mud is good for playing games, eating, and even sleeping. But few taters have more tender feelings toward muck than Rot. À la Pete the Cat, Rot celebrates mud in song: “Mud between my toes! / Mud in my nose! / Mud is GREAT / wherever it GOES!” When Rot’s big brother, Snot, tells Rot about the Squirm that lives “deep down in the mushy muck,” his love quickly turns to fear. But he doesn’t give up! Instead, Rot imagines himself in various disguises to work up courage. There’s “Super Spud” (a superhero), “Sir Super Rot, the Brave and Bold” (a superhero-knight), and even “Sir Super Rot the Pigtato” (a, um, superhero-knight-pig-potato). The disguises are one thing, but, deep down, is Rot really brave enough to face the Squirm? Readers wooed by Rot’s charm in Rot: The Cutest in the World (2017) will laugh out loud at this well-paced encore—and it’s not just because of the butt cracks. Clanton creates a winning dynamic, balancing Rot’s earnestness, witty dialogue, and an omniscient, slightly melodramatic narrator. The cartoon illustrations were created using watercolors, colored pencils, digital collage, and—brilliantly—potato stamps. Clanton’s reliance on earth tones makes for some clever, surprising page turns when the palette is broken.

Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular! (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6764-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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