Sincere and life-affirming.

A single cottonwood tree gives its autobiography from seed to 80th “birthday” while text in a smaller font provides additional information about cottonwoods and their ecosystems.

The cottonwood’s voice is conversational and has a gentle rhythm for a pleasing read-aloud—possibly in two sessions for the littlest listeners. Even without the additional text, readers learn plenty from the cottonwood’s descriptions of such phases as seed, sprout, seedling, sapling, and mature tree as well as from its descriptions of landing in good soil; pushing off its seed coat and stretching; and being a friend and helper to insects, birds, and mammals. Each double-page spread includes a two-sentence litany of summary and affirmation, as in—after explaining about nesting birds—“I am nature’s nursery. I am a cottonwood tree.” Paralleling the tree’s growth is that of a young, pale-skinned boy. His return visits over the years are interspersed with the tales of animal interactions. In one passage that tenderly veers from hard facts, the man, now grown, tells his daughter (also pale-skinned) a Cheyenne and Arapaho tale about the connection between stars in the sky and cottonwoods. The ending is a reassuring reminder of life’s eternal cycles. All members of this riparian ecosystem—and the visiting humans—come alive in the line-and-color artwork, which includes a variety of perspectives and employs a unifying, soothing color palette. The accessible extra text for older readers includes cottonwood statistics, duck behaviors, and natural history, among other facts.

Sincere and life-affirming.  (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-88448-856-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021


From the Ada Lace series , Vol. 1

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the...

Using science and technology, third-grader Ada Lace kicks off her new series by solving a mystery even with her leg in a cast.

Temporarily housebound after a badly executed bungee jump, Ada uses binoculars to document the ecosystem of her new neighborhood in San Francisco. She records her observations in a field journal, a project that intrigues new friend Nina, who lives nearby. When they see that Ms. Reed’s dog, Marguerite, is missing, they leap to the conclusion that it has been stolen. Nina does the legwork and Ada provides the technology for their search for the dognapper. Story-crafting takes a back seat to scene-setting in this series kickoff that introduces the major players. As part of the series formula, science topics and gadgetry are integrated into the stories and further explained in a “Behind the Science” afterword. This installment incorporates drones, a wireless camera, gecko gloves, and the Turing test as well as the concept of an ecosystem. There are no ethnic indicators in the text, but the illustrations reveal that Ada, her family, and bratty neighbor Milton are white; Nina appears to be Southeast Asian; and Mr. Peebles, an inventor who lives nearby, is black.

The story feels a bit contrived, but Ada will be a welcome addition to the small circle of science-loving girls in the chapter-book world. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8599-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017


From the Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adventure series , Vol. 1

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so...

A pro bono Twinkie of a book invites readers to fly off in a magic plane to bring clean water to our planet’s oceans, deserts, and brown children.

Following a confusingly phrased suggestion beneath a soft-focus world map to “touch the Earth. Now touch where you live,” a shake of the volume transforms it into a plane with eyes and feathered wings that flies with the press of a flat, gray “button” painted onto the page. Pressing like buttons along the journey releases a gush of fresh water from the ground—and later, illogically, provides a filtration device that changes water “from yucky to clean”—for thirsty groups of smiling, brown-skinned people. At other stops, a tap on the button will “help irrigate the desert,” and touching floating bottles and other debris in the ocean supposedly makes it all disappear so the fish can return. The 20 children Coh places on a globe toward the end are varied of skin tone, but three of the four young saviors she plants in the flier’s cockpit as audience stand-ins are white. The closing poem isn’t so openly parochial, though it seldom rises above vague feel-good sentiments: “Love the Earth, the moon and sun. / All the children can be one.”

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so easy to clean the place up and give everyone a drink? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2083-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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