Julia’s Book Reviews

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer follows the creation of our world from a tiny ball of energy to the big bang, from the creation of stars to this fantastic place we call home. Ekua Holmes’ marbleized collages bring word to a visual sensorial experience.

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome. After his mother dies, Langston moves with his father from Alabama to Chicago. Although he feels alone and is bullied by his classmates, he finds solace in the local  library. There he discovers many new books, including ones by his namesake, Langston Hughes. Langston takes the reader alongside to experience his tumultuous emotions and adventures. Although set in 1946, the conflicts and themes are relevant today, making this book intriguing and significant for all readers.

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds. Meet Jerome, a collector of words. Jerome finds magic in words, from guacamole to effervescent. He categorizes them, writes poems with them, sings with them. Jerome and his words teach the reader the importance and enchantment of the lexicon.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Peter and Pax have been inseparable since Pax was a kit. When Peter’s father enlists in the military, Peter is sent to live with his grandfather 300 miles away, leaving Pax behind. Through their will to find one another, they will meet those who will bring them in and those who will push them out. You will be hooked through every forest, across every river, and over every bomb.

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. A little boy wants to jump off of the highest platform into the pool. He stalls and waits. Finally, he works up the courage to jump and realizes it was all worth it. The cute illustrations and story tell a nice story of bravery and facing your fears.

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin. Did you know that the oldest rocks in the Grand Canyon are as much as 1.84 billion years old? Well, you certainly would after reading Grand Canyon, which gives an in-depth, while entertaining history of one of the largest canyons in the world. This book looks deep into how the canyon was formed, who has lived there over time, and why it looks like it does now. There are drawings that show the stunning beauty of this natural phenomenon as well as scientific drawings of the animals and sedimentary layers of the canyon. Everybody will learn something new and enjoy reading this book.

Following the motif of circles, All Around Us, by Xelena González, explores a girl’s relationship with her grandfather and nature. More specifically, she learns about the cycles of life and repurpose from his wisdom and starts seeing these circles everywhere. Beautifully written with exquisite illustrations by Adriana Garcia, All Around Us, captures the curiosity and understandings of a young girl. Come along and discover new insights with her.

Prickly Hedgehogs! by Jane McGuiness (2018). Follow a mother hedgehog and her hoglets through the seasons, while learning facts about our friends, what they eat and the number of spines they have. It is a charming book that also has information about the loss of hedgehog population in Europe.

When a Wolf is Hungry by Christine Naumann-Villemin (2018 Batchelder Honor Award). Edmond Bigsnout, a lone wolf, has a craving for some good, city rabbit. He goes to the city, but accidently leaves his knife behind on the elevator much to another animal’s delight. He comes up with a new plan, but each tool finds a better use than for rabbit-catching. The wolf’s story of persistence is accompanied by cute illustrations of all the animals Esmond meets along the way. This book is always fun to read and will make you laugh.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell. (2018 Caldecott Award). Beautiful watercolors tell the story a young girl who loses her way in a snow storm and finds a wolf pup. Both are lost and need help to find their mothers and their homes. This is a powerful wintry story of friendship.

Under the Pig Tree: A History of the Noble Fruit by Margie Palatini. (2015). This well-researched history of figs was “accidentally” written about pigs. With notes by the author and editor, you get a culmination of facts and references that will make you laugh. The illustrations about pigs add a comical twist to this already playful storyline. This is a joyous book to read for all ages. Adults will get the well-placed jokes and kids will love the angry author and cute pigs. In Roman times, figs were considered restorative, but will pigs be able to live up to that standard?

Jack Rabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph by Lucy Margaret Rozier. (2015). Jackrabbit McCabe was born to run. By 18 he could beat every moving thing in the frontier town of Windy Flats. Though this is Rozier’s first picture book, it is not to be under-estimated. She tells the light-hearted story of fictional character Jackrabbit McCabe with humor and wit. Colorful illustrations depict a lively, small American town with emotion. It is a great introduction into the history of Morse code and electric telegraph system. McCabe may be the fastest in Windy Flats, but when the electric telegraph comes to town, will he be able to beat the new contraption?

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. (2015). Jackson gets worried when his parents tell him to start packing his keepsakes bag. That’s when Crenshaw, a large imaginary cat, shows up. Jackson doesn’t like Crenshaw coming back because a) he’s not a kid anymore, and b) the last time Crenshaw came around was when the family had to live in their minivan. This heartwarming, yet heartbreaking, story shows devotion through a big, surfing, bubble bath-taking cat. Crenshaw is a pot of humor, secrets, cats, and beautiful moments cooked on medium-high until just right: soft and enjoyable. Will this cat we call Crenshaw be able to get Jackson and his family through these tough times, or will they need more?

The Great White Shark Scientist by Sy Montgomery. (2016). This nonfiction, Scientist in the Field, text follows a shark biologist along the Cape Cod coastline as he and his team travel on the Aleutian Dream, tagging and tracking sharks. With stunning photos from Keith Ellenbogen, from both the boat and a small airplane following it, this book gives an informative mix of facts, data, and photos. From the ocean to the lab, these biologists have a love for sharks, and they’re eager to share it with you.

Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. (2015). Ari’s mom died when she was 7. She and her brother, Gage, have been living with Janna, their “Guardian”, ever since. Her mom had two dying wishes though, first, that Ari and Gage would stick together, and second, that Ari would get into Carter, the gifted school that all of Ari’s family has gone to. One day, Gage, now 19, decides that he can’t take another day living with Janna, and so, following the promise they made to their mom, they both pack up and head out into the streets. Finding an apartment and job is harder than Gage expects, so they “couch surf” for a while, but Ari has trouble keeping up with her school work and doesn’t know if she’ll be able to get into Carter. This book is wonderfully written and gives an inside look at homelessness for children. It shows how one day you can have a normal life, and the next be scouring the ground for any lost pennies. This is a great book by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen about the adventure of Arianna Hazard and the people around her.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford. (2016). The slaves worked all day from Monday to Saturday. Planting and pruning, cleaning and baking, the slaves worked hard. But on the seventh day of the week, they stopped. On Sunday, they gathered in Congo Square where they sang and danced, rejoiced and communed. They felt free for that day when they could be together in Congo square before working for another six days. Based on the true story of Congo Square in Louisiana in the mid 1800s, this picture book adds rhythm to the text and colorful and artistic illustrations. Readers will rejoice just as the characters do in Congo Square.

One Hundred Bones by Yuval Zommer. (2016). Scruff is a stray dog who loves to dig. He digs in yards, in pots, and under fountains. But the other dogs don’t like him and the humans don’t like the digging. But he keeps doing it, until he digs up something really special and has to ask the other dogs for help. This picture book with adorable illustrations is about doing what you love and it paying off. It is a great book with adorable little dogs to lead the way.

Among a Thousand Fireflies by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder. (2016). Among a Thousand Fireflies tells the story, with stunning photographs and poetic language, of two fireflies who, using their light, find each other among thousands of fireflies. It is beautifully written with close up and very cool photos of the fireflies. This book teaches a little about the ways fireflies communicate with the light and should definitely be on every reading list.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. (2015). During the Tsarist rule, it was fashionable to have wolves as pets; that is until they chewed up a closet full of dresses or bit a guest’s hand. Unwanted wolves were sent to the wolf wilders, people who retrain the wolves to return to the wild. The reintroduction program was successful until the released wolves began to eat livestock. In response, General Rakov, a senior official in the Tsar’s army, takes Feo’s, a young wolf wilder, mother to St Petersburg. Feo, left alone, begins a heartwarming and treacherous journey. This book is beautifully written, capturing every snow-frosted hill perfectly. It shows a majestic form of trust Feo builds as she meets strangers, victims of Rakov’s force, who join her on her journey. A book with blizzards, wolves, and laughing children, it calls you to join Feo.

The Mixed-Up Truck by Steven Savage. (2016). Every truck does its job. The scooper scoops and the digger digs. But on the cement mixer’s first day he’s told to pick up some “powdery white cement”, but he doesn’t know what that is. Follow the cement mixer on his journey to find the cement, and maybe encounter a few cakes and bubble baths along the way. With simple, but descriptive drawings, this book is a funny read as you learn the mishaps of the mixed-up truck. Maybe he’ll find the cement one day!

Moo by Sharon Creech. (2016). 12-year old Reena and her family move to Maine, expecting an ordinary Maine life with plenty of lobster. But things are far from ordinary when her parents volunteer Reena and her younger brother to help Mrs. Falala, their eccentric old neighbor. Mrs. Falala is the owner of many animals including a moody cow, Zora. At first the cow hates Reena. And Reena hates the cow, and Maine. Slowly a bond grows between Zora and Reena. Reena starts to realize that Mrs. Falala isn’t quite so eccentric and quite so mean. This book is written in verse and each line conveys moody cows, angry old ladies and beautiful Maine perfectly. Will their new Maine life be ordinary as expected, or just a bit better than that?

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. (2016). When a container ship, carrying thousands of robots, sinks in the middle of the ocean, everything is lost. Except for one crate that washes up on a remote island. When the robot pops out of the box she doesn’t know that she’s not supposed to be in the wild. All she knows is she’s supposed to survive. At first all the animals are afraid of the new “monster”, but slowly she starts to gain their trust and it seems the island is the only place she’s meant to be. This book by Peter Brown is an interesting story about belonging and friendship. It includes cute little illustrations of the robot on her journey to be helpful. This very smart robot in a place she really shouldn’t be is something you’ll want to see. (you can also read, The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown.)