Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Solution Seekers

All you have to do is step outside the confines of your home, school or workplace in an area with birds to recognize how well they work together to confront danger.  On any given day you can hear them excitedly chirping or squawking to announce the presence of a predator.  As you move closer to the noise, the culprit can usually be spotted.  Sometimes a group of smaller birds can be seen diving and chasing after a larger bird that has raided their territory, demonstrating the power of eliminating a pest.

Instinctively with remarkable adaptability members of the animal kingdom exhibit the necessary skills to withstand obstacles, change and threats.  Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking (Owlkids Books, April 14, 2015) written by Elin Kelsey with illustrations by Soyeon Kim asks readers to observe and learn.  Over long periods of time creatures in our world have continually created answers to questions.

Problems are like sticker burrs.
They poke.
They prick.
They nag.

Occasionally problems provide solutions coming to us in a flash.  Have you noticed how squirrels will start and stop and dash, start and stop and dash when crossing a busy road?  They've watched and altered their behavior.

Animals are always waiting and thinking.  Each specie approaches a dilemma differently.  Orangutans build nests, not only for sleeping but for pausing and pondering.  It might be necessary like gibbons to hold on and then take a leap toward a better direction.

If you can be still for long enough, you can monitor the process a particular animal uses to accomplish a goal.  They might not succeed on the first attempt but they do not give up.  Did you know chimpanzees fold leaves to scoop up water?

Humpback whales and bubbles work together.  A gifted special effects make-up artist and a mimic octopus have quite a bit in common.  Sometimes animals, like us, need help from family members.  Elders offer advice.

Even the constellations guide smaller members of the wildlife kingdom.  You can't live life without problems.  Look to our animal neighbors for solutions.  Connect, consider, concentrate and correct.

As if we are in a one-on-one conversation with Elin Kelsey she presents to readers the problem solving abilities of a variety of animals who are most at ease on land, sea or air,  Readers and listeners will be challenged by the verbs in her two-word sentences, inviting learning and discussion.  Distinctive parallels are made between those difficulties encountered by animals and those children find in their daily lives.  Here is another sample passage.

When these animals want to
make something happen...
they try.
They get frustrated.
They try again.
They invent tools.

Initially looking at the matching dust jacket and book case you are drawn to the illustrative work of Soyeon Kim.  All of the images are created in dioramas then photographed for publication.  Their ethereal beauty is breathtaking.  The picture extends to the left, the back, with a bear, bees and a child bearing a berry branch in the lower left-hand corner.  One of the final illustrations from the book is framed above this vignette.

The opening and closing endpapers are pale green.  In a darker shade drawings showcase animal creativity in eighteen labeled images.  Two title pages highlight flying birds; one carrying a little girl with arms outstretched like wings.

All of the visuals extend edge-to-edge across both pages with the exception of the final page.  The tiny elements in each scene are stunning. The children's attire and facial expressions are precious.  Kim alters her perspective from diorama to diorama.  Careful readers will see a panoramic view with text and then a portion of that will become the focus of another piece of the narrative.  It supplies a sense of continuity.

One of my favorite pictures is of the seven humpback whales swimming in a circle to create a net of bubbles.  The strings of tiny fish they hope to catch are swirling over the largest whale placed down the center of the gutter.  Two children, a girl and a boy are swimming with the whales.

Wild Ideas:  Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking written by Elin Kelsey with illustrations by Soyeon Kim takes readers into the wild letting them wander where they might not go.  Each statement supported by scientific fact is woven into the whimsical world of Kim's visuals.  This book frees us to be more than we thought we could be.  I would definitely pair this title with This Is Sadie by Sara O'Leary with pictures by Julie Morstad.

If you desire to learn more about Elin Kelsey or Soyeon Kim, follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  The publisher's website has numerous resources; seven scientific podcasts, Q & A sheets on the author and illustrator, a short video on taking the photographs of the dioramas, lesson plans are coming, the note from the author seen in the back of the book, a video of whales blowing bubbles and the press release.

Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to see the titles chosen by the other 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge participants.


  1. This would be great in the gifted ELA classroom. I love books that inspire curiosity, thinking, and problem-solving!

    1. It certainly would Holly! Each illustration is filled with possibilities.

  2. I love this book Margie and your review is stunning. I am going to tweet you some photos of art my students did with this book!

    1. Thank you Carrie! I certainly appreciate you sharing your students' artwork on Twitter. These two women create beautiful books.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful and inspiring book! I just ordered it and can't wait to share my copy with others, especially kids. This is the kind of book that gives me hope for the world.

    1. You're welcome, Betsy. I know you are going to enjoy the book when it arrives. When readers are asked to look at the world around them, it does indeed give us hope.