A beautifully illustrated and original book that gives youngsters fascinating glimpses into Arctic life.

NEVER RUB NOSES WITH A NARWHAL

AN ALLITERATIVE ARCTIC ABC BOOK

This illustrated alphabet book by debut author Ruth Wellborn and debut illustrator Morgan Wellborn introduces readers to flora, fauna, people, and sights of the North American Arctic.

Abecedarian children’s books are thick on the ground, but this one stands out for its unusual theme and unexpected vocabulary. For each letter (E and F plus X and Y are combined), the book provides a complete alliterative sentence that refers to the nature and culture of the four North American Arctic regions: Alaska, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. For example, the text for the letter C reads, “A CARIBOU CALF CAPERS THROUGH CLUSTERS OF CLOUDBERRIES.” Each sentence is declarative, providing a consistent structure for the book. Full-color, nicely detailed illustrations show each element of the sentence in realistic, not cartoonish detail, making this book an excellent learning tool as well as beautiful. Vocabulary can be challenging; a “Glossary of Interesting Words” helps define unfamiliar terms, though in ways more suitable to older readers. In the C sentence, for example, cloudberries are described as “an herb native to alpine, Arctic tundra and boreal forests. They produce amber coloured edible fruit similar to a raspberry.” “Tundra” and “boreal,” however, aren’t defined. Other sentences are easier to construe, such as the entry for W: “A WALRUS’S WHISKERS WHITEN AS IT WAITS.” Of special interest are the entries relating to Arctic people and culture. For example, under U, “UNA’S ULU IS A VERY USEFUL UTENSIL,” the illustration shows an old woman slicing salmon with a curved blade, and the glossary explains that an “ulu (or woman’s knife) is a curved all-purpose knife used by the Inuit people. It has many uses and can be used to skin and clean animals, cut hair, prepare food, or trim blocks of snow and ice when building an igloo.” Helpful explanations like this take the book beyond the ABC category, making it appropriate for older readers doing some research. Also included are some statistics, a map, and two pages of “Interesting Facts About the North.”

A beautifully illustrated and original book that gives youngsters fascinating glimpses into Arctic life.

Pub Date: July 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2592-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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