Minor’s paintings are glorious; the textual conceit is a little overdone

SEQUOIA

A giant sequoia experiences the world around “him” in Johnston’s romantic, image-laden, anthropomorphic rendering of the life experiences of the largest tree on the planet.

This sequoia “feels,” “waits,” “counts,” “gazes,” “tells”—all verbs attributed to Sequoiadendron giganteum. The author describes large and small events that occur: Birds and beasts visit and shelter, weather changes, forest fires rage, seasons turn. It is all very poetic and expresses the author’s subjective understanding of the sequoia. Fortunately, facts about the great trees are nicely summarized in endnotes. Minor’s gouache watercolors convey the action and present a more realistic picture of the theme. He shows the tree, the changing seasons, the sky, the animals and birds that live in the tree’s branches, roots, environs. Occasionally he demands a 90-degree turn of the book, so readers can see a (relatively) tiny bear dwarfed by the towering tree. His paintings give the words life, although the animals are not identified: Is that a ground squirrel or a chipmunk? a crow or a raven? and what species is the owl flying in the moonlight? Perhaps it does not matter, since this is impressionistic free verse, lines often breaking with no apparent poetic need, rather than natural history.

Minor’s paintings are glorious; the textual conceit is a little overdone . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-727-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A visual feast teeming with life.

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A FLOWER?

A young urbanite romps through floral fields and deep into a flower’s anatomy, exploring humanity’s connection to nature.

A solo car travels away from the dense, gray cityscape. Mountains rise up, full of pattern and light, before revealing a fluorescent field of flowers. A child bursts from the car across the page, neon-rainbow hair streaming in the wind, as both child and place radiate joy and life. The brown-skinned, blue-eyed youngster breathes in the meadow and begins an adventure—part Jamberry, part “Thumbelina,” and part existential journey as the child realizes the life force running through the veins of the flower is the same that runs through all of us, from the water that sustains to the sun that grows. Harris’ colored-pencil illustrations are full of energy and spontaneity. His use of patterning and graphic symbology evoke Oaxacan design, yet the style is all his own. The text is equally enthusiastic: “Have you ever seen / a flower so deep / you had to shout / HELLO / and listen for an echo / just to know / how deep it goes?” The text shifts abruptly from metaphor to metaphor, in one spread the flower likened to a palace and a few pages later, to human anatomy. Nevertheless, like the protagonist and the natural environment, readers will feel themselves stretch and bloom.

A visual feast teeming with life. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4521-8270-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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