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What Am I? Vegetables

John Benzee. Split Seed, $18.99 (36p) ISBN 978-0-9997379-0-3

In this guess-the-vegetable book, Benzee presents 15 rhyming “riddles” that hint at common varieties: “I’m grown in pods/ On bush or vine/ With spiraling, twisting spine,/ The size of a pencil rod... What am I?” (a bean). Graphics display each vegetable growing in the dirt and on the vine, or sliced to reveal their seeds and juicy insides—or, in the case of the beet: “My blood oozes out/ When I’m cut in two,/ Now you have an inner view.” Benzee’s descriptions are fun, and the artwork features gentle color contrasts and a crisp, modern feel. With the clues in the riddles, images, and the names of the vegetables appearing in bold capital letters, readers should have an easy time guessing each one. Ages 3–7. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Fangsgiving

Ethan Long. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-68119-825-5

In Long’s third book to feature the green-and-purple-hued Fright Club monsters, Vampire Vladimir and his friends are busy preparing a Thanksgiving feast. Then, the vampire’s extended family members make an unexpected appearance. Though “it was a happy reunion,” they bring some chaos to the gathering. Aunt Bessy makes her own mashed potatoes with eyeballs and earwax (not garlic); commandeering the turkey, Uncle Gus “cooked it to death”; and just when they are about to sit down to eat, slobbery dog Spike devours everything. Vladimir hits his breaking point: “You ruined Thanksgiving!” But family is family, and the motley group of monsters work together to improvise a new meal. Holidays don’t always go as planned, Long asserts, and that’s okay. Ages 3–6. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Is It Rosh Hashanah Yet?

Chris Barash, illus. by Alessandra Psacharopulo. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-3396-3

In this latest installment of their series highlighting Jewish holidays, Barash and Psacharopulo chronicle a family’s preparation for the Jewish New Year. The family picks apples “for Daddy’s applesauce,” nibbles on pomegranates (“We hope to do a mitzvah for each of the seeds inside”), and makes cards for loved ones. The children and their classmates listen to the shofar, greetings of “Shanah Tovah” are in the air, and there’s a festive meal (cue the brisket) with a big crowd to usher in the holiday at sundown. The story begins and ends in the outdoors, and all vignettes (save the last) conclude with the refrain “Rosh Hashanah is on its way.” Barash brings a light, cheery touch to the celebration. Ages 3–5. (July)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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We Travel So Far...

Laura Knowles, illus. by Chris Madden. Firefly, $19.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-77085-985-2

Readers familiar with the seasonal migration of geese and monarch butterflies may be surprised to learn of other animal travelers and the distances they migrate. On each spread, an animal briefly describes its own migratory patterns: “Some years, when there is plenty of food, there are too many babies. Too many lemmings! We need more space! More food! Where shall we go?” While animals such as caribou travel tremendous distances, others—including garter snakes—simply return to their underground holes each autumn to hibernate. In earth-toned illustrations, Madden depicts animals en route to their destinations via land, water, and sky. In a final example, human families await the arrival of passengers at an airport: “We are the people of the world. We travel to many places for many reasons.” Ages 7–10. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Look at Me! Wild Animal Show-Offs

Jim Arnosky. Sterling, $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4549-2809-6

Arnosky introduces animals with unusual—and showy—characteristics. Subjects include birds with dramatic plumage, mammals with horns and antlers, and animals that ward off threats by making noise. Some animals, like sockeye salmon, “change their color completely”; subjects able to “spread” their skin include the anole. Arnosky includes pencil sketches and colorful, naturalistic renderings of the creatures, as well as several striking foldouts. The naturalist’s lyrical, first-hand accounts of animals in the wild (“The animals’ hooves kicked up dust that hung in the air like mist over their heads”) contribute an additional layer of immediacy to the well-informed descriptions. Ages 6–10. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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The Elephant

Jenni Desmond. Enchanted Lion, $18.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-59270-264-0

In Desmond’s third title in a series devoted to endangered animals, a brown-skinned boy wearing a red crown reads from a book—the very same book in readers’ hands—about African and Asian elephants. The mixed-media art offers naturalistic depictions of elephants on the savannah, tramping through the forest, and crossing a dry desert. Desmond includes expressive touches, as well: a mountain of fruits and vegetables represents what an elephant could eat in a day (the boy sits atop the pile, munching on an apple). Memorable facts about elephants occur throughout: “Since some African elephants’ ears are as big as full-sized refrigerators, vigorous flapping can generate quite a breeze.” An affectionate and informative celebration of two magnificent species. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Lovely Beasts: The Surprising Truth

Kate Gardner, illus. by Heidi Smith. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-274161-5

Gardner thoughtfully urges readers to look beyond animals’ most apparent traits. Porcupines are “prickly,” sure; however, they are also peaceful loners, “shy herbivores who eat leaves, flower blossoms, and berries.” Working in muted grays and greens and with fine-grained charcoal pencil lines, Smith shows two sides to each “beast.” While bats might be viewed as “ugly,” they are also helpful “caretakers,” Gardner explains: “Many bats play an important role in the environment by controlling insect populations, eating as many as eight thousand mosquitoes a night.” Sharks have sharp teeth, but they are also guardians of the ecosystem. With cogent word choices, Gardner gently urges readers to see beyond first assumptions and to celebrate the wonder of biodiversity. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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A Web

Isabelle Simler. Peter Pauper, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4413-2843-4

In finely detailed spreads resembling specimen boards, Simler identifies the insects, leaves, seeds, and other organic matter that a spindly black spider might capture in its web. Simler’s delicate depictions of the spider shift from naturalistic to almost ethereal. In one spread, the spider’s legs emerge from the bud of a white lily; elsewhere, the arachnid is seen transporting pebbles, twigs, nuts, and seeds, a single thorn delicately balanced on one leg. At last, the web is unveiled, and the spider’s bulbous form dangles bluntly like an abstract Halloween decoration while the accumulated treasures appear trapped in the web’s strands. It may be a gruesome fate for the prey, but readers will surely admire the “delicate masterpiece” created by both the storyteller and her subject. Ages 3–8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Heads and Tails

John Canty. Candlewick, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0033-1

In an elegantly designed guess-the-animal outing, subjects introduce themselves using brief, descriptive clues: “I have a striped furry coat. I live in the jungle. I am the largest of all cats. I am a...” Readers first see an animal’s back end, which Canty illustrates in loose watercolors set against white spreads. On the following page, the animal’s head appears in more detailed renderings, adapted from 19th-century archival images. Additional subjects include a fish, tortoise, fox, frog, and kangaroo. An unexpected conclusion invites readers to be a featured animal, as well: “I love to play. I learn new things every day. I am growing. I am... Me!” Ages 2–5. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition

Charles Darwin, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff, illus. by Teagan White. Atheneum, $25.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-4814-6249-5

This attractive, oversize adaptation of Charles Darwin’s classic work of science has been shortened, updated, and streamlined for clarity and readability. Stefoff’s introduction provides biographical detail about Darwin and how the naturalist’s excursions on the HMS Beagle were instrumental to his theory’s development. She also describes the fundamental concepts behind Darwin’s “Big Idea” as well as its significant controversy. Vocabulary words appear in bold throughout the text, while sidebars and supplemental sections delve into related topics: myths and misinterpretations of evolution; how modern research has deepened scientific understanding of evolutionary processes; and the concept of “artificial selection” as it applies to modern dogs. Bright photographs and illustrations of plants, animals, and habitats provide an expansive and inviting visual element. With valuable modifications and enhancements, Stefoff preserves the richness of Darwin’s content for contemporary young readers. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/14/2018 | Details & Permalink

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