Willodeen by Katherine Applegate

5 stars Children’s Fantasy

I enjoyed this fantasy world with Willodeen.  Not under the best of circumstances, I liked how Willodeen discovered a problem and was persistent as she worked to solve it. A strong, determined character, she was compassionate to others and I felt that although she alone, she knew she wasn’t lonely. 

After a fire claimed the lives of her parents and a sibling, Willodeen lives with 2 older women who were healers. Willodeen is a quiet girl who prefers to spend her time in the great outdoors; observing nature and taking notes.  Willodeen likes to search for Screechers.  Although, they’re not the adorable hummingbears (small bear with wings) that the villagers all loved, to Willodeen, they were her favorite. Her father had taught her to love all things including unlovable things which to some individuals included the Screechers.  Yes, these Screechers produced a loud screech but they also were grumpy, smelly creatures that were definitely unwelcomed by the villagers. 

The villagers are aware of Willodeen’s passion for the Screechers and I couldn’t believe how cruel and immature some of them were towards her.  She was an 11-year-old girl for cripes sake!  I was glad when Connor was introduced to Willodeen. Connor and Willodeen are both reserved and smart individuals and they both also needed a friend.  I enjoyed reading how their friendship evolved. 

As the Autumn Faire date approaches, the village starts to plan the annual celebration.  This year though, it isn’t looking good financially for the town.  As the village’s huge moneymaker, the hummingbears haven’t made their annual return yet.  They know, if they don’t return, neither will the tourists.  The villagers need this revenue to survive.  What can they do to get them back?  Why have they suddenly stopped coming?  Where are they?  Lots of questions are hanging in the air and there seems to be only one person who has all the answers.  One person with a notebook full of notes.  Another great read by Katherine Applegate.  5 stars

My Nana’s Garden by Dawn Casey

5 stars Childrens

With tears in my eyes, I write.  Reluctant to stay with her Nana, she soon realizes how special her Nana really is.  As the little girl spends time with her Nana in her garden, she begins to understand that the overgrown garden is actually an exceptional place.  A place where Nana lets things happen. Where the wildflowers grow for the insects and the critters can run freely, where the apple tree brings forth fruit for harvesting, and that old tree is called home to some animal friends.  The garden is also a special place where Nana and the little girl can spend some quality time together, enjoying each other’s company while appreciating the world around them.  It isn’t long before she starts to enjoy visiting her Nana and tending to the garden space alongside her.   

The book progresses quickly and Nana has moved into a wheelchair.  It is my assumption that this little girl is her granddaughter and she has also grown up quickly.  The daughter now accompanies her granddaughter on the visits to Nana’s.  The three of them now visit the garden together, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

“In my nana’s garden,

I curl up and cry.

The sun doesn’t shine

in the winter sky.” 

The tone of the book changes after this quote and my mood does also for, I feel that life has changed for this family.  The garden is cold and bare all winter long as the granddaughter looks out the window remembering her Nana.  Come spring, the daughter and granddaughter get to work in Nana’s garden tending to it, just like Nana did. The garden springs to life and there is energy within the book again.  The daughter is changing too and as I flip the page, there are now 3 individuals surrounding the tree in Nana’s garden, “We think of Nana by the trees.”

What a sweet book.  I loved looking at the illustrations and seeing how they changed without any mention of it in the text. I felt the author did an excellent job addressing the relationship of the little girl and her Nana, Nana’s passing, and how they honored Nana by caring for her garden.  With a rhyming text, the words did not feel forced but were smooth and flowing.  This Nana truly enjoyed this book.  5 stars

I am the Storm by Jane Yolen

5 stars Children’s

Mother Nature throws at us some fierce storms, whether that be hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, or blizzards but as humans we are fierce too. Jane Yolan does an excellent job showing that although we have no control over Mother Nature, we can control how we react to what happens in our area.  Each of these situations are unpredictable, yet in this children’s book we find comfort and strength to weather any storm that should come our way.

The illustrations inside this book are just wonderful. From the purple-orange swirl of the tornado to the burning marshmallow, for each of these little details brings this book to life.  I enjoyed the diversity as each of the families as they dealt with their disaster.  Although their situations weren’t as devasting as we witness on the news, there was still work to be done and emotions that need to be addressed, after their event had passed.  Yolan text is soothing and instills with her readers that the disaster will eventually end and they too, will survive.  Things might look different outside for them but “It’s okay to be scared” for they are “strong and powerful” and each of them have characteristics of the storms within them.  In the back of the book, Yolan gives a brief description about each type of storm. 5 stars

“And when the storm passes,

as it always does,

I am the calm, too.”

The Bee Book by Charlotte Miler

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

Let’s talk about bees.  What do you really know about bees and what do you think you know about bees?  I think that most people know that bees make honey and that there’s a queen bee, a drone bee and worker bees in a hive.  Did you know that there’s hundreds of drone bees in a hive and that they only live a few weeks?  Did you know that the queen bee typically lives 5 years and that she’s the mother to most of the bees in the hive? I thought the worker bees were busy, but the queen bee, she lays about 2,000 eggs a day!  Welcome to just one page inside this fantastic book by Charlotte Milner.  With the bee population dwindling, reading about these fascinating creatures made me realize just how important they really are. 

With bright colorful illustrations this book is full and I mean, full of information!!  Upon opening the book, there is a Table of Content which consists of a list of comments or questions pertaining to bees with a corresponding page number.  Thumbing through the book, I love just looking at all the different illustrations on the pages and reading the text that accompanies them.  Some of these are just fast-facts about bees and some provided more detailed reading but they’re not long reports on bees that slow me down or overwhelm me.  At the back of the book, there’s a great index too.  Did I mention how wonderful the illustrations are and how bright and colorful the pages are?

I can learn about pollination, why pollination is important, what a honeybee is, where honey comes from, and tons of information on the honeybee’s hives.  I can learn about the different types of bees that are needed inside a hive, why the bee population is dying and what I can do to help the bees survive.  I can also read about bee swarms which sound like a horrible thing but according to the brief summary, they usually aren’t.

This is a wonderful book.  It’s a book worth keeping and definitely, one worth sharing.  I’m sure that everyone will learn something from this book unless of course, you’ve been studying bees for years.  So, where does a honeybee store the nectar that it collects before he goes back to the nest?  How many eyes does the honeybee have?  Why does he have so many?   Can the female honeybee sting you?  Better get reading to find these answers.

If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

5 stars Children’s Book

This book is beautiful!  This book says it all.  If you were to buy one book to have in your library, this should be the one!  It’s almost brought tears to my eyes as the author explains how we are all unite on this one big planet. 

I really enjoyed the illustrations inside this book, from how much detail was included, to the color choice, to how much there was to look at, these illustrations were wonderfully done.  I was impressed with how the author used an assortment of each topic to get her point across.  When she addressed how individuals traveled:  she included a rowboat, tugboat, skateboard, taxi, tractor, airplane, hot air balloon, camper, police car, ambulance, race car, wheelchair, pickup, bus, etc.  The two pages were full.  The author covers a variety of subjects in this book including families, weather, food, what people do, feelings, etc.   There was this feeling of love and community that came over me as I read this book, that we all are together on this planet, breathing and hopefully working together. 

This is an oversized book (11.25 x9 approx.) with 74 pages.  This is not one book that will be read once and put away as the illustrations again, are interesting and many of them have lots of look at.  I think this one is a keeper.  I highly recommend this one and make sure you read the last page of the book as the author talks about how she arrived at writing this book. 

” There are lots of things we don’t know.  We don’t know where we were before we were born or where we go when we die.  But right this minute, we are here together on this beautiful planet.”

“We humans define ourselves be where we are born, where we live, what we believe, by the clothes we wear, and the languages we speak.  But there is no “typical” person.  We are all different.”

Outside Art by Madeline Kloepper

5 stars Children’s Picture

Art is in the eye of the beholder.  I remember hearing this when I was young and finally, someone explained this simple, complex statement to me. It has stuck with me ever since because it says so much with such few words.  These are the words that came to mind when I read this book. Everyone makes art in their own way. A baby can make art and so can a senior citizen.  It’s in its interpretation, that we label things art. 

As Pine Martin watches the Human inside and outside its log nest in the woods, doing odd things, Pine Marten tries to find the meaning behind them. I enjoyed Pine Marten’s view of the human world: “plucking the string-log to make noise” and “using mud to make a water holder” to refer to the playing of a guitar and to using a clay pottery wheel. It was a refreshing way to look upon the world that we live in.  When he watches the Human “putting colors on a board using a furry stick,” he’s confused. 

Chickadee explains what he has heard the Human is doing and how it refers to Art and he explains what he thinks Art is.  Soon, a variety of animals arrive one-by-one to give their own opinion of what Art is and how it relates to the Human’s activity.  I thought this was clever and I liked how the house cat got in on the action and tried to outsmart them all.  I said tried……. Is the Human the only one who can create Art?

The illustrations are beautiful and creative a peaceful feeling to the book.  There are many interesting ideas that come out of this book and ways that you can engage children using this book.  I think this book is good for children beginning around 6 years of age based on the concept, content, and language.  I really enjoyed it.    

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

5 stars Children’s Picture

We all should know how important our water supply is.  It’s not something that we should take for granted, ask anyone who doesn’t have water or has had to go without their water for an extended amount of time and they will tell you, water is precious.  I really enjoyed how the author makes us look at water and how valuable it really is.   

       “It nourished us inside our mother’s body.

        As it nourished us her on Mother Earth.

         Water is sacred, she said.  (Nokomis)”

 I have to tell you that I went into this book blindly.  I knew that it was a popular book and that it was up for some awards but I didn’t know its subject matter.  For me, going into this book blindly was ideal as I had to guess what the author was referring to as she spoke of the black snake tainting the waters.   Something has to be done to stop the black snake but what?     She stepped forward, hoping to rally her people together to stop the black snake, but can they?  They march as many, to also carry the torch for those without a voice, to fight those who wear blinders. 

You definitely have to read the 2- page section at the back of the book, as I thought these notes and information gave the book more depth and force.   The illustrations were fabulous with striking colors and images.  Definitely a book that you have to read more than once.  5 stars. 

A Day With Yayah by Nicola Campbell

5 stars Children’s Picture

This was a nice picture book that is also an educational book as a Yayah (grandmother) spends time alone with her grandchildren, passing down the traditional natural world of their culture.   Although the scmem’i?t (children) don’t like to eat everything Yayah gathers, they love to be with her, when she collects her harvest and I understand why.  Yayah’s patience and knowledge flows freely from her and just being with her and learning from her is a wonderful day.

Yayah teaches the scmem’i?t new words every day and she reinforces those words as she speaks to them throughout the day.  Teaching them the Indigenous language, Yayah speaks to them calmly and in a gentle tone as she mixes this language with the English language, as they look and gather for the first spring crop.  Yayah teaches them, she educates them not in just the harvest but in the environment around them so that in the future, they will be able to gather their own harvest successfully.   There’s a Glossary of Words at the back of the book that helps.  I would love to hear this book being read.  A wonderful, good feeling book.   5 stars

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

I am in awe! This book is breathtaking! As a nature lover, I am fascinated about the world around me and as I read about Apis, I was glued to this book. As Apis made her made into the world, her journey was just beginning. Each page of this book, brought new experiences and I was exhausted just reading about everything that she did. Only days old and she was working non-stop.

Image result for free honey bee  images

I learned a great deal about the Short Life of a bee and my mood quickly changed as the I got the end of the book. I liked how the author presented the information with facts and comments in a story-like narration. The illustrations are bright, engaging, and bigger than life. At the back of the book is a diagram of a honeybee with its different parts highlighted and there’s also a section about helping honeybees, facts about honeybees, online and books about honeybees. I highly recommend this book as I can’t stop thinking about this book!

Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

4 stars Children’s Picture Books

I guess I don’t follow the excitement about this book.  The illustrations are wonderful but I thought they were the best aspect about the book.  With a fantasy theme to them, the girl moves through the different scenes, trying to escape her dark past.  Some scenes she has forest animals with her and in one she has dragons but throughout her adventures, she is with her companion, the fox. 

Trying to put her dark and gloomy life behind her, she’s trying to move onto a brighter future.  As she flees with the fox, she realizes that they could run into problems in their journey but she knows the action they can take to beat it. 

It’s a beautiful book but I think the text might be a bit deep for some readers. It’s a book about hope, letting readers know that, although they may feel overwhelmed or defeated, victory and success awaits them.  I think for a picture book, there are many children who will not be able to comprehend the true meaning of what the author is trying to convey without someone explaining it to them first.  Once you get over that small hump with young readers, it’s a great book and for older readers, they should be able to grasp it.