BACKYARD DETECTIVE

CRITTERS UP CLOSE

The talented photo-illustrator (Digging for Bird Dinosaurs, 2000, etc.) examines 125 backyard creatures, mostly insects, photographed life-sized and described in a detailed text. Creatures are presented in seven double-page layouts, each a composite of over 60 separate photographs. Following each habitat page are two pages of information and identification. He provides both the specific (how ladybugs take off for flight) and the more global (how critters fit together in the habitat and he invites the reader to become a backyard detective with hints and projects for exploration). Many creatures will be familiar to both urban and suburban dwellers; a photo index aids in identifying them. According to an endnote, the photographer used a computer and “cut-and-paste” technique to edit the photos of individual creatures and place them in the habitat collages in naturalistic poses. For example, a backyard meadow shows dragonflies, butterflies, ladybugs, bees, spittlebugs, caterpillars, and more crawling, climbing, and flying in and around milkweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, dandelions, and clover. Occasionally a magnifying glass is used to enlarge a part of the collage. Another composite shows flying insects as a backyard viewer would see them looking up—insects from the bottom look very different. With four kinds of spiders, five kinds of ants, and seven different butterflies, there is plenty here to keep young and adult viewers engaged and challenged. (Nonfiction. 5-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-17478-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.

HOW TÍA LOLA CAME TO (VISIT) STAY

From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Renowned Latin American writer Alvarez has created another story about cultural identity, but this time the primary character is 11-year-old Miguel Guzmán. 

When Tía Lola arrives to help the family, Miguel and his hermana, Juanita, have just moved from New York City to Vermont with their recently divorced mother. The last thing Miguel wants, as he's trying to fit into a predominantly white community, is a flamboyant aunt who doesn't speak a word of English. Tía Lola, however, knows a language that defies words; she quickly charms and befriends all the neighbors. She can also cook exotic food, dance (anywhere, anytime), plan fun parties, and tell enchanting stories. Eventually, Tía Lola and the children swap English and Spanish ejercicios, but the true lesson is "mutual understanding." Peppered with Spanish words and phrases, Alvarez makes the reader as much a part of the "language" lessons as the characters. This story seamlessly weaves two culturaswhile letting each remain intact, just as Miguel is learning to do with his own life. Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they're being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of la lengua nativa—the mother tongue.

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80215-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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