An eminently child-friendly treatment of the devastation that follows disaster.

KENTA AND THE BIG WAVE

In this testament to resiliency and kindness during natural disasters, the Japanese boy Kenta’s soccer ball is swept away by a tsunami and eventually returned by a child living across the Pacific Ocean.

The opening double-page spread depicts an aerial view of lower-elevation homes being swallowed by waves; the ending spread, Kenta’s reunion with his soccer ball while nearby, construction workers re-build his town. From beginning to end, author/illustrator Ohi manages an admirable balancing act. Young children are exposed to the realities of loss and damage while also viewing such things as children at play in the emergency shelter at the school gym and dolphins frolicking in the same waves that have carried people’s belongings far away from their homes. Clever but accessible wording abounds, as in “The school gym was crowded with people looking for what they’d lost. Kenta found his mother and father. The ocean found Kenta’s soccer ball.” The watercolor-and-pencil illustrations are roughly hewn, but they include such careful details as English-language signs along the shoreline when the ball reaches North America. Muted colors work well with the sparse, poetic text to create an appropriate gentleness. The placement of words and pictures—and the clever device of pale banners for text over darker backgrounds—ensure easy use as a read-aloud to a group of young children.

An eminently child-friendly treatment of the devastation that follows disaster.   (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-577-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

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. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories.

ASTRONAUT ANNIE

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. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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