Children—and more than a few adults—will find this educational you-are-there journey to the rain forest fascinating.

NO MONKEYS, NO CHOCOLATE

This clever circular tale with a curious title opens with a common scene: a party including chocolaty treats. The authors explain, “[Y]ou can’t make chocolate without… / …cocoa beans.” With the turn of the page, readers find themselves in the rain forest microhabitat of the cocoa tree.

In each spread, the authors take children backward through the life cycle of the tree: pods, flowers, leaves, stems, roots and back to beans. The interdependence of plants and animals is introduced in the process: Midges carry pollen from one flower to another; aphids destroying tender stems are kept in check by an anole. Graceful ink-and-watercolor illustrations range from an expansive view of the rain forest to a close-up of aphids. Explanations are delivered in a simple manner that avoids terms such as pollination or germination. “Bookworm” commentators in the corner of each spread either reinforce the concept—“No lizards, no chocolate”—or echo youngsters’ impatience: “I thought this book was supposed to be about monkeys.” Indeed, the book closes with a monkey sitting in a branch with an open pod, eating the pulp and spitting out the beans, which fall to the ground and take root: no monkeys, no chocolate. Backmatter helps young naturalists understand why conservation and careful stewardship is important.

Children—and more than a few adults—will find this educational you-are-there journey to the rain forest fascinating. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58089-287-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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This effort gives partial information where children could have handled the full picture. Look to Julie Hannah and Joan...

IT'S RAINING!

Though Gibbons includes lots of facts about rain in her latest, some flaws limit its usefulness.

The explanation of the water cycle, though basic, is solid and accessible for children: “As the water vapor moves higher into the sky, the air becomes cooler and cooler. Water vapor soon turns into millions of water droplets. This is called condensation.” Gibbons then goes on to describe the types of rain clouds. Unfortunately, her trademark watercolor-illustration style does not differentiate these enough, nor does the text, to make this knowledge applicable. She next tackles the different ways rain falls: drizzle, shower, rain, rainstorm, thunderstorm, flash flood. While the bit about thunder and lightning may soothe nerves about this typical childhood fear, introducing the threat of broken windows and falling tree limbs from other storms may offset this. The final few pages address storm cleanup, acid rain, cleaner energy sources and the possibility of a rainbow. How this latter forms is left to the backmatter, whose many facts should have been supplied in the text itself, including tips on staying dry and safe and a list of supplies to have on hand in case of a storm. As in her other titles, text within the illustrations gives further information and/or defines vocabulary words.

This effort gives partial information where children could have handled the full picture. Look to Julie Hannah and Joan Holub’s The Man Who Named the Clouds, illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye (2006), instead. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2924-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it.

THE OLD BOAT

A multigenerational tale of a boat’s life with a Black family, written by two brothers who loved similar boats.

In the opening spread, a smiling, brown-skinned adult dangles a line from the back of a green-and-white boat while a boy peers eagerly over the side at the sea life. The text never describes years passing, but each page turn reveals the boy’s aging, more urban development on the shore, increasing water pollution, marine-life changes (sea jellies abound on one page), and shifting water levels. Eventually, the boy, now a teenager, steers the boat, and as an adult, he fishes alone but must go farther and farther out to sea to make his catch. One day, the man loses his way, capsizes in a storm, and washes up on a small bay island, with the overturned, sunken boat just offshore. Now a “new sailor” cleans up the land and water with others’ help. The physical similarities between the shipwrecked sailor and the “new sailor” suggest that this is not a new person but one whose near-death experience has led to an epiphany that changes his relationship to water. As the decaying boat becomes a new marine habitat, the sailor teaches the next generation (a child with hair in two Afro puffs) to fish. Focusing primarily on the sea, the book’s earth-toned illustrations, created with hundreds of stamps, carry the compelling plot.

A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00517-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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