Quote of the Month

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

Friday, January 6, 2023

Every Day Is Earth Day

As is my habit at the first of every year, I am not quite ready to embrace 2023 titles until I have given shout-outs to titles I really enjoyed in 2022.  This year I have grouped seventeen books together which focus on the beauty of and the ongoing struggle of our planet in climate crisis.  These are by no means all the titles read this year focusing on our planet and its inhabitants; others were cited in previous posts and more will be highlighted in future posts.

As in the past,

links to author, illustrator, and publisher websites (or social media accounts) are included.  Passages from the books are shown.  Short summaries, observations, are given.  These books are grouped by format and then in order of release date, earliest date first.

In 2022 author illustrator Remy Lai released a young reader graphic novel series titled Surviving The Wild.  In a letter to readers Remy Lai states:

Ultimately, this series is most of all about hope.  Humans are indeed doing terrible things to the environment, but we are also doing great things to save it.  The series is also about believing in our own ability to effect a change, because sometimes many of us feel that these environmental issues are too mammoth, that we are too small to do anything.

To date there are three titles, Star The Elephant (Henry Holt And Company, April 5, 2022), Rainbow The Kola (Henry Holt And Company, April 5, 2022), and Sunny The Shark (Henry Holt And Company, August 9, 2022). There are interior images available at the publisher's website.  At the back of each book, Remy Lai offers the true story on which each book is based.  More factual information about each animal and how we can help are found in twelve pages at the end of the books.

Are you ready?

Jump, Star!

Humans are clearing the forest where the elephants make their home.  The herd decides to divide themselves so the hunt for what food is left will be more successful.  Star, his aunt and mother, are forced to swim into the ocean to seek refuge on an island.  Even here, there are humans.

They flee and try to hide, but the elder elephants are sedated with darts.  Confused and afraid, Star nearly drowns thinking his mother and aunt have returned to their original home.  Another journey takes Star to his ultimate safety.

That's my mom high up in a gum tree.

I live in her pouch.

My name is Rainbow.

After six months, Rainbow is asked to leave by his mother.  She has taught the koala all that is initially needed to know.  The rest of surviving is up to Rainbow.  Finding a tree to call home is not easy.  In fact, it is getting hotter and hotter and harder and harder to find any water. 

Soon the heat and lack of water take a toll and the forest is being devoured by the flames of a horrendous bushfire.  Rainbow remembers his mother telling him to find the tallest tree and climb, so he does.  Others are not as fortunate as Rainbow.  Hunger and thirst drive the little koala from his tree after the fire passes.  This does not protect him from the still burning ground, but a special canine assists in his rescue and that of other koalas.


Noisy birds.

It's so warm today.
I'll dive deeper,
where it's cooler.
And quieter.

After Sunny dives, a group of pilot fish seek his help in escaping a hungry tuna.  We learn how they return the favor to Sunny.  Soon Sunny is caught and tagged with a monitor by a research team.  Sunny is hungry, but is snared by the remnants of a balloon, thinking it is food.  The ring is stuck on Sunny.  As the whitetip shark grows, the ring gets tighter and tighter. 

One day, the research team finds Sunny again, but before they can remove the ring, a pod of killer whales approaches and scares Sunny away.  Another encounter with a different species of whale and a human might save Sunny who is getting thinner and hungrier. Unfortunately, for the whitetip he is left still struggling to survive.  He nearly dies trying to attack a giant squid for food.  Sunny is near death.  Will the research team find him in time?

Remy Lai has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

At his website, author illustrator Scott Magoon says:

Like so many of us, I want to leave our world a healthy place for our children and all future generations.  I am greatly alarmed by climate change, frustrated by humans' apparent lack of progress in making real change to combat it and so I want in on the fight to help save the planet.  What better place to start than with our young readers?  They'll be on the front lines in this battle in the years ahead, and they should know what they're up against.

That's the heart of what lead me to write and illustrate this book.  . . .

In The Extincts: Quest For The Unicorn Horn (Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, March 29, 2022) a graphic novel and the first in a series, Scott Magoon introduces readers to a special group of animals belonging to ROAR, Rescue Ops Acquisition Rangers.  These animals, Scratch, a Saber-Toothed Tiger, Lug, a Woolly Mammoth, Martie, a Passenger Pigeon, and Quito, a Collins' Poison Frog, are on a quest. At the publisher's website and at Scott Magoon's website there are interior images to view.  There are loads of extras at Scott's website, too.   At the close of the book, Scott Magoon dedicates full packed informational pages to the extinct animals named in this title.  There is a glossary, facts about the Batagaika Crater, two pages on ways to slow climate change, an experiment, and lists for further reading and a bibliography.

Stockholm, Sweden
1:12 AM

All quiet here.
Let's do this right.
Report in, ROAR.

Sky's clear.
Front entrance
is cle----
There's movement at the front entrance.

It's him.  He's got the stolen sword.
Looking MUY El Ladron.
And headed my way.

He's leaving from the FRONT door?
Jeez, HE'S not shy.
Our cat burglar's wielding a 4-foot sword made from 22 MEGALODON TEETH.
Would you be shy?

With this first mission we meet the team.  They are quickly recruited again by Dr. Z for their next assignment, the retrieval of a Siberian Unicorn Horn.  Snappy banter and conversations by the team members and information by GAIA, a computer whiz program, supply readers with up-to-date facts and edge-of-your-seat fun and adventure.  Readers will really enjoy all the gadgets and vehicles used in the story.

After Lug, Martie, Quito, and Scratch land in Siberia near the Batagaika Crater, they become the target of a relentless attack by a rogue bear.  There are also other hunters seeking tusks and the horn.  There might be zombie wolves in the crater, too.  Whew!  How are our heroes going to succeed?  Just when you believe it cannot get any worse, it does.  Speedy and clever thinking might save the day.

Book two, The Extincts : Flight Of The Mammoth is set to be released in March of this year.  Scott Magoon has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This is Scott Magoon's first graphic novel.  You will love his layout, design, and the panels.

Through the reading of nonfiction titles like BE A TREE! (Abrams Books for Young Readers, March 30, 2021) written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Felicita Sala and The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom (Roaring Brook Press, March 2, 2021) written and illustrated by Lita Judge, we have come to understand the unique communication techniques between trees.  In Apple and Magnolia (Flyaway Books, February 8, 2022) written by Laura Gehl with illustrations by Patricia Metola, this understanding is presented through a story of family and generational wisdom.  Sometimes, the youngest and oldest among us see the world the way it is meant to be seen.

Britta's two favorite trees,
Apple and Magnolia,
were best friends.

Britta couldn't explain how she was
so sure about the friendship or how
the trees had become friends
in the first place.  But deep down
in her heart, she knew it was true.

Not a day went by without Britta visiting the two trees.  Her dad and Bronwyn were certain the trees were not friends, but Nana agreed with Britta.

One day Magnolia's bark, branches, and leaves looked to be dying.  The two naysayers believed the tree would not last the winter.  Nana encouraged Britta to help Apple help Magnolia.  Britta discovered something unusual between the trees.  Dad and Bronwyn did not believe it.  Nana worked with Britta to gather proof.  When winter shifted to spring, the truth was revealed.

Laura Gehl uses the technique of storytelling three to excellent effect, giving readers opinions from the three family members each time a change occurs.  She also uses the same phrase voiced by Nana at the beginning and ending of the book to bring the narrative full circle.  Through her words readers will come to love Britta and her determination.

Laura Gehl has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Illustrator Patricia Metola rendered these stunning illustrations using a limited color palette.  They are highly animated and softly textured.  It is easy for readers to feel themselves transported into each scene.  The details will have them pausing at every page turn.

Patricia Metola has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

To say I am an observer of clouds is an understatement.  My Instagram account has an abundance of pictures featuring clouds and sky observations.  When John Schu featured the book trailer for Breaking Through the Clouds:  The Sometimes Turbulent Life Of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson (Abrams Books For Young Readers, March 8, 2022) written by Sandra Nickel with illustrations by Helena Perez Garcia on his Watch. Connect. Read., I knew I had to have a copy.  There is an author's note at the end of the book along with a selected bibliography and a timeline of Joanne Simpson's life.  At the author's website you will find links to multiple resources and a downloadable curriculum guide on the book's page there.

By the time Joanne was five, she had discovered her mother didn't much care
where she was.  That summer on Cape Cod, she slipped a small boat into the inlet
behind her cottage, tipped her face to the sky, and watched the clouds above her.

As soon as she could, Joanne left home, traveling to Chicago, to be mentored by Carl-Gustaf Rossby.  He taught her enough so she could teach weather officers during World War II.  She taught them about winds and clouds.  After the war ended Joanne wanted to become a doctor of meteorology, studying clouds.  She was laughed off campus.  Joanne sold her boat, now having enough money to further her studies.

Over the next several years, Joanne became a student of clouds, maintaining records and calculations.  This time the professors lauded her work, giving her a doctorate of meteorology.  She was the first woman to receive this honor.  For years and years, Joanne continued with perseverance to learn as much as possible about clouds, studying them in the air and coming to land to share what she learned.  She made a computerized cloud model, 

the first of its kind.

At the age of sixty-six Joanne Simpson was elected president of the American Meteorological Society.  

When author Sandra Nickel writes about this woman, it is like reading an adventure story.  Each layer, a portion of this woman's life, is documented to show how hard it was for her, but she never gave up.  Her story is certain to inspire others and at the very least will have more people looking to the sky with greater understanding of clouds and weather.

Sandra Nickel has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Bold, bright and colorful images rendered in gouache by Helena Perez Garcia will captivate readers.  Dramatic double-page pictures elevate the emotional and factual text.  The book case is different from the dust jacket.  On the opening and closing endpapers, white on black, are sketches of clouds that are labeled.

Helena Perez Garcia has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

This reader and certainly many others have never had the pleasure of seeing a tide pool.  A visit to the west or east coasts of the United States is where some are located.  These watery wonders form in depressions where the oceans meet land.  Reading The Tide Pool Waits (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, Aril 5, 2022) written by Candace Fleming with pictures by Amy Hevron is a sensory, informative, immersive experience.  At the close of the book is an illustrated guide to this tide pool, online resources to explore tide pools and an explanation of the kind of life at each level of a tide pool.  At the publisher's website, there are activities and lesson plans to download.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.

The waves . . .


And then . . .


Swish, gurgle, trickle,

Water has collected in the tide pool.  The sun heats it and all that surrounds it.  A gull calls.  Each named living being in the pool hides and waits, trying to keep cool.  Every nook and cranny houses a creature.

Soon the waves crash and the water rises with the incoming tide.  Those that were waiting come to life, moving and blooming.  Activity heightens until once again the waves inch back toward the ocean.  Life in the pool waits and waits and waits.

Readers feel as though they are a part of the tide pool through the use of descriptive details and named species by author Candace Fleming.  Due to the naming of specific creatures and their movements, this is excellent as an introduction and will surely encourage further exploration through research.  The use of alliteration makes this a read-aloud gem. 

Candace Fleming has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Rendered using acrylic paint and pencil on Bristol paper, the artwork by Amy Hevron provides us with panoramic views of the ocean and its shore and then moves inside to the tide pool life.  The shapes of the flora and fauna invite us to join those living in these extraordinary watery worlds.  Through her images we find ourselves waiting, too, until the waves come crashing to join the pool with the ocean

Amy Hevron has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

If you stop to look around you, inside or outside, and think about what you see, you cannot help but think you are witness to miracles every single day.  The words on the back of the jacket and case for this book, Our Planet!:  There's No Place Like Earth (Henry Holt And Company, April 5, 2022) written by Stacy McAnulty with illustrations by David Litchfield says it all. 

Read this book about Our Planet,
written by Our Planet,
while you explore ways to save---
you guessed it---Our Planet! 

At the close of the book are two pages of further facts about our Earth with a list of sources.  At the publisher's website, you can view amazing interior images.

Hi! I'm EARTH.
Also known as Planet Awesome.
Also known as your awesome home.

Actually, I'm home to all the plants in the solar system and all the animals, including all the humans.  That's nearly eight billion people.

The other seven celestial bodies in the solar system are named along with reasons life there would not be favorable.  The temperature on Earth is just right.  Earth is the perfect distance from the sun, it has oceans and a super atmosphere.  We then learn about weather and climate.

A discussion follows about what is happening to the atmosphere.  It is causing the icebergs to melt, oceans to rise, excess flooding and extreme heat.  We are reminded of the other animals that inhabit Earth.  We are asked to protect this diversity.  Clean energies are explained.  Sharing of stuff is recommended.  And trees are needed.

In simple, declarative sentences, through the first person voice of Earth, author Stacy McAnulty gives readers the facts.  Earth asks us to look through a different lens, putting the planet first.  Not only does Earth make this request, but supports it with facts.  Upbeat and engaging conversation will have readers ready to help.

Stacy McAnulty has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Using mixed media and digital art tools, this pictures by David Litchfield sing from the pages.  They mirror every emotion of Earth, pride, happiness, and sadness.  Throughout the book, Earth is a likable educator informing us with exactly what we need to know.  Most of the illustrations are double-page pictures for emphasis.

David Litchfield has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

We know in most instances, we are better together.  We also know each one of us is unique.  Using the number one, Only One (Anne Schwartz Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, April 5, 2022) written by Deborah Hopkinson with artwork by Chuck Groenink through the words and wonder and wandering of a child, we will be fascinated about our world and beyond.  The energy of this child will have us cheering for her and our planet.  On the final page is a list of resources for further exploration.  Interior images can be viewed at the publisher's website.

One. Only one.
The story starts with one.

A speck explodes to create the universe.  She chats with her sibling about stars, galaxies, and the one galaxy most important to us, the Milky Way.  She talks about the vastness of the Milky Way and its stars when other children join them.  Then she tells them about the one most important star, the sun.

She explains the solar system and the other planets, our moon, our atmosphere, and our continents.  All kinds of landforms are named.  These are populated by species. (This child's knowledge of numbers is amazing and captivating.)  As she reaches her destination with many others, she ends as she started with one, one tree planted.

Readers will be totally attracted to the method used by Deborah Hopkinson to inform readers about the extent of our universe and our planet and our place in them.  Through this child's voice we begin at one point and extend it and then come back to another point.  Her progression is wonderful while being factual.

Deborah Hopkinson has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

At the same time he enhances the text, Chuck Groenink is telling readers another story.  It begins with the girl interrupting her sibling's television show, continues with other friends joining them, and ends with the entire group merging with others for a huge Tree Planting Day.  Created in acrylic paint, ink, and Photoshop, this artwork is colorful, joyful, and expressive.  They are all double-page pictures.

Chuck Groenink has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

Sometimes, it is nice to pause and wonder what people in a different time zone might be doing.  What about people on the other side of the world?  Author Nicola Davies and illustrator Jenni Desmond collaborate to show us what is happening around the world when it is midnight in London.  It is a tour celebrating amazing animals and our need to protect and preserve them.  One World: 24 Hours On Planet Earth (Walker Books, April 7, 2022 and Candlewick Press, March 2023) will have you wishing for teleportation.  At the close of the book is an author's note, an artist's note, an explanation of climate change, and what people can do to help.  Interior images can be viewed at Walker Books and Penguin Random House.

A Note To The Readers

Planet Earth, our home, is always turning.  One whole turn is what we call a day, and each day is split into segments like an orange:  24 of them.  The time it takes for Earth to spin through one of those segments is what we call an hour . . . so, there are 24 hours in a day.

21st. April: One minute to midnight
Greenwich, London, UK

Where on Earth are you, right now?  Maybe where you are it's time for breakfast, or maybe it's time for bed.  It's late where I am, and almost everyone's asleep, but I'm awake, looking out into the night.  Wondering.

The first stop for the child and her sibling is Svalbard, Arctic Circle.  Here it is 1 am.  They watch a mother polar bear and her cubs.  The sun shines all the time. Another hour passes.  They are in Luangwa Valley, Zambia at 2 am.  The duo watch a herd of elephants circle a newborn, protecting it from lions.  Rangers will protect the herd from poachers.  For the next twenty-two hours we keep moving to the east.

We see sea turtles hatch in India, watch gibbons in China, and whale sharks in the Philippines.  We visit all of the continents.  In Antarctica, the sun will set for five whole months.  In the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador will the forest be preserved or will it be cut down to get the oil underneath?  As the siblings make their way home, they can see from above how humans are hurting our planet.  As a new day begins, so does their resolve to make a difference for the betterment of our home, planet Earth.

For each hour, author Nicola Davies takes us to a particular place.  It is named along with the time.  She features creatures native to this space, often describing what it is like at that moment in time.  She carefully points out the struggles animals here face.

Nicola Davies has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

Each illustration in this book carefully rendered by Jenni Desmond spans two pages.  She begins on the title page with the siblings nestled under a blanket fort stretching across the space between their two beds.  They are reading a book by flashlight with a group of animals forming an arc in front of them.  Each scene, each space, is depicted realistically, nearly photographic in detail.  The children are shown in their brightly-colored attire flying, resting, kneeling, swinging, swimming, hopping, or standing.  Their actions are dictated by where they are.  They are utterly charming.

Jenni Desmond has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

When thinking back about all the changes in our planet seen in my lifetime, it is staggering.  Seven plus decades have resulted in advancements and setbacks hardly imagined.  I have witnessed things that have shocked me to the core.  I have seen beauty that stops me in my tracks.  There is much to do and sometimes, as a person, it can be overwhelming.  To Change A Planet (Scholastic Press, August 2, 2022) written by Christina Soontornvat with illustrations by Rahele Jomepour Bell offers readers insight into what is happening to our planet in light of climate change.  This title gives readers hope as individuals and groups of individuals.  At the close of the book are paragraphs titled What Is Climate Change?, What Is Causing Climate Change?, How Will Rising Temperatures Affect Life On Earth?, How Do We Know All This?, and What Can We Do To Take Action?  There is also a list of sources beneath the dedications.  Both creators are interviewed about this book at We Need Diverse Books.  Christina Soontornvat and Rahele Jomepour Bell are interviewed by John Schu at Watch. Connect. Read. about this title.

Big, tough,

We step back in time as thoughts are offered about the history of this place we call home.  We then move to a single person multiplied many times.  This number of people can and have changed our Earth.  Our life choices have heated our planet and as small as the temperature rise overall is, its effects are damaging.

But . . . that single person multiplied many times can stop the damage and repair our planet.  Different choices in how we travel and make energy can work toward a healthy home for all living things.  We depend on Earth and Earth depends on us.

Compact, profound statements by Christina Soontornvat appeal to readers of all ages.  They leave no room for misunderstanding.  The repetition of certain words and phrases connect us to where we have come and where we need to go.  Readers will be captured by the cadence and ready to become significant.

Christina Soontornvat has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

These images, full-page pictures and double-page illustrations, by Rahele Jomepour Bell are colorful, dynamic and explanatory.  Readers will pause at each page turn to marvel at the artwork made with gouache on paper, which was then scanned and painted with digital brushes.  The people throughout this book are from diverse backgrounds and of all ages.  This is an invitation to all readers.

Rahele Jomeour Bell has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

What makes our planet special?  What parts of it do we need to protect?  Where do we begin?  When you read A Planet Like Ours (Sleeping Bear Press, August 15, 2022) written by Frank Murphy and Charnaie Gordon with illustrations by Kayla Harren, you get answers to all those questions.  This book is a joyful call to action.  At the conclusion of the book are a note from the authors and the illustrator.  It is followed by a page of activities.  There is an activity sheet for downloading at the publisher's website.

There are hundreds
and hundreds of billions
of planets in the universe.
Maybe more.
Maybe too many to count.
But there's only one planet like ours.

In the first two pages, we learn how we have hurt our planet.  We learn of the value of our soil, and our water.  We explore all the animals who share this planet with us.

Trees are essential for so many things.  Our air is necessary for life.  One of our greatest resources is each other.  What are we doing to preserve our ways of life for the benefit of all?

For every two pages authors Frank Murphy and Charnaie Gordon using lyrical phrases introduce readers to the purpose of soil, water, animals, trees, air, and people.  The words "Our Planet" precede each topic.  At the end of the explanation we are asked to offer protection.  We are repeatedly reminded 

If not us, then who?

Encouragement is offered continuously so readers are inspired to do their part, large or small, alone or together with others.

Frank Murphy has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Charnaie Gordon has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The first thing readers notice about this book is the happy collaboration of the children working together on the front of the jacket and case.  As the cover of the book is opened a cheerful pattern on the opening and closing endpapers is a presentation of all the work they are doing to protect our planet.  The illustrations by Kayla Harren are full-page pictures, double-page images, and smaller visuals grouped together.  The same four children are featured throughout the book, striving for the common good.  Readers will pause to watch their activities.

Kayla Harren has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

One way to develop an even greater appreciation for our planet and the living things that dwell here is to be more mindful about noticing what is around us every single day.  We need to be more intentional than casual.  The collaborators that brought us Bird Count (Peachtree Publishing, October 1, 2019) are back with a recent release.  Bioblitz!: Counting Critters (Peachtree Publishing, November 15, 2022) written by Susan Edwards Richmond with illustrations by Stephanie Fizer Coleman takes readers on a day trip they likely have not ventured to try yet, but it is guaranteed they will want to do so after reading this title.  At the close of the book is Gabriel's Bioblitz List, Acknowledgements, Gabriel's "Did You Know . . . ?" Facts and an author's note with a resource list.  At the publisher's website you can view the book trailer and interior images and there is a six-page activity kit to download.  At Penguin Random House, you can see the fabulous endpapers.

Dad and I watch the train pull up.  I've brought
a surprise for my cousin Ava.
"Hi, Gabriel!"  she says.  "What's in the jar?"

Insect-loving Gabriel and his bird-loving cousin Ava have just been told by Gabriel's dad they are going on a Bioblitz tomorrow.  After he offers them an explanation, they can hardly wait for the next day to arrive.  At the park, the ranger goes over the rules for the gathered community scientists.  They are to list any animal species they see or hear.  They are to take a picture of each one or two people must see or hear it if they cannot get a picture.  Ava and Gabriel are on separate teams.

During the hunt Gabriel is the recorder for his team.  Conversations help readers to understand how a Bioblitz works.  When it gets darker outside the two teams meet and find even more critters as moths come to a light and rest on a white sheet.  Together the teams find 100 critters!

Realistic and informative dialogue by Susan Edwards Richmond welcomes readers into the story.  When critters are located, the text is placed in bold.  The critters are numbered in the scene and numbered and listed on the right side in a column.  The manner in which this narrative is written is like that of a scavenger hunt.  All ages are a part of the Bioblitz.

Susan Edwards Richmond has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

When readers open the book, they will smile at the opening and closing endpapers.  Their background is graph paper and exhibit Gabriel's drawings of some of the critters he spotted.  These digital illustrations by Stephanie Fizer Coleman portray people who enjoy each others' company and the BioBlitz!  For most of the pictures we are given a wider view unless the text requires a close-up.

Stephanie Fizer Coleman has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

There are places on our planet few have visited.  One such place is the Mariana Trench.  It was 1960 before humans descended to the depths in the Challenger Deep area.  Fifty plus years passed before James Cameron, filmmaker, descended in a submersible named the Deepsea Challenger.  He set a solo record of dropping 35,756 feet.  In Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone Editions, January 1, 2023) written by Lydia Lukidis with illustrations by Juan Calle, the mysteries of the trench are revealed as we dive in a submersible and explore this fascinating world.  At the back of the book several pages include a cut-out view of the trench, Did You Know? facts, Why Does the Mariana Trench Matter?, a note from the author, acknowledgements and a glossary.  At the publisher's website, you can download a poster, educator's guide, and trading cards. This book is showcased with author interviews at author Susan Leonard Hill's site and Celebrate Picture Books.

at the bottom 
of the Pacific Ocean
lies a secret place.

Hidden from sight,
the Mariana Trench
is the deepest underwater valley
in the world.

As the submersible dives deeper, the sunlight disappears.  It is dark!  There is little food.  The cold is oppressive.  The water pressure increases.  One of the first noted inhabitants is a rattail, a fish.  This is followed by a cutthroat eel.  Beings that look like feathery trees glide past the vessel.

As the depth increases, the variety of life changes.  There are amphipods and snailfish.  On the bottom, there are all types of living things.  There are sea cucumbers and xenophyophores (not plants or animals).  As the submersible makes its way to the surface, sunlight finally reappears.  Was this a dream?  

Through the descriptive, poetic and factual writing of Lydia Lukidis readers are transported to a realm unlike any experienced previously except perhaps in science fiction.  As we dive deeper, the creatures are named along with their size.  We are told at what depth they are found.  There are separate paragraphs from the main narrative which further inform us.  This portrait of the Mariana Trench is certain to promote more research.

Lydia Lukidis has accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

If one word were used to describe the artwork by Juan Calle for this book it would be atmospheric.  We feel the immense darkness, cold, and pressure.  The creatures at all levels are detailed and realistically depicted.  His scenes including the submersible are nearly photographic.  He varies his perspectives so sometimes what we see is framed through the submersible window.

Juan Calle has accounts on Instagram and Twitter but they are for his work in comic books.

More and more often, I find myself turning on the water and then shutting it off quickly.  I don't want to waste a single drop.  I water my gardens just enough to keep them healthy.  My showers are shorter.  Drought in the United States and around the world is increasing.  Water shortages are a reality for far too many people, animals, and plants.  The reality of this struggle is vividly depicted in Thirst (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, July 19, 2022) written by Varsha Bajaj.  An author's note and acknowledgements at the end of the book are a necessary read.  At the publisher's website is an excerpt, a teacher's guide, and a clip from the audio version.  Varsha Bajaj is interviewed at We Need Diverse Books about this title.

Sanjay and I sit on the top of the hill and stare out at the huge, never-ending Arabian Sea.  The salty breeze brings a little relief from the heat.

"It feels like the world is made of water from up here," I say.  "That there's enough of it for everyone."
But I know there isn't.

Minni's family has no running water in their home.  They share a tap outside with their neighbors.  It is only on for two hours each day.  Buckets of water are collected in the morning.

One evening Minni and her friends witness the theft of water.  This puts all their lives in danger.  There is a water mafia in Mumbai.  She knows who the boss is.  When Minni starts to work in one of the high-rise buildings, she is shocked to discover water running from every faucet.  There is a pool on the top of the building.  The disparity is stunning!  Minni needs to make a decision.  Lives depend on her.

Author Varsha Bajaj writes with the sure knowledge of Mumbai.  She conducted multiple interviews with the residents.  The blend of dialogue and first-person narrative makes for a tension-filled story filled with realism.  You will never look at water the same way after reading this book.

Varsha Bajaj has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

We, every single living thing, are connected.  The absence of one creates a chain reaction. The value of sea otters is made abundantly clear in If You Take Away the Otter (Candlewick Press, May 26, 2020) written by Susannah Buhrman-Deever with illustrations by Matthew Trueman.  Fortunately, people realized their necessity in maintaining an vast ecosystem.  In her newest release Katherine Applegate draws our attention to another aspect of sea otters in Odder (Feiwel and Friends, September 20, 2022).  At the end of the book is a glossary, an author's note, acknowledgements, a selected bibliography, and resources for young readers, print and online.  At School Library Journal is an excerpt from this book and an interview with Katherine about this title.  At the publisher's website, we can read an excerpt and view interior images by the talented Charles Santoso.

the queen of play
Monterey Bay, California
and environs

not exactly guilty

In their defense,
do not (as a rule) eat

True, sharks sometimes
taste them
by mistake, leaving
frowning bites
or the jagged clue
of a tooth or two.

But then,
in fairness,
nobody's perfect.

Odder loves to play and at times she takes too many chances, like swimming too close to a kayaker or too far out in the bay.  On this day a hungry, young shark is waiting for Odder and her wary friend, Kairi.  They have ventured too far from safety.  The shark moves on the slower otter, Kairi, biting her tail.  Odder knows this is her fault.  She swims back, moving like a tornado to distract the shark.  It works.  The shark attacks Odder.  She loses consciousness.  

On the beach, curious people surround her until help arrives.  She remembers the voices.  Surgery is performed at the aquarium.  Her caregivers are hopeful, but this otter is very damaged.  We, then, are taken back three years to when as a pup Odder lost contact with her mother during a storm and was initially rescued by the aquarium personnel. It is here she is taught to live like a sea otter, until one day she is released.

When we return to the present day, Odder is not what she was.  Her life will never be the same.  The humans do have a plan for her.  Will she accept it?

Meticulous research by Katherine Applegate shines through the four chapters of her free verse writing.  We see the world, her home, her stays at the aquarium, and her interactions with other otters and humans, through the voice of Odder.  We understand her joy and curiosity.  Our hearts break at her acceptance of what she believes will happen and we rejoice when what she believes does not come true.  Readers will leave the reading of this book with a new understanding of the work of humans at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and of sea otters' purpose on our planet.

Katherine Applegate has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The spot illustrations by Charles Santoso will endear readers to Odder.  Some are small and others span a full page.  The highly detailed artwork in black and white is softly textured.  They heighten our visual perceptions of the narrative.

Charles Santoso has an account on Instagram and Twitter.

We have seen news reports and watched videos of the effects of hurricanes, the warming of the polar ice caps, and wildfires.  Although alarming, unless we have experienced them ourselves, we are still removed from the harsh reality of them.  Anyone who reads Two Degrees (Scholastic Press, October 4, 2022) written by Alan Gratz will feel as though they are in the thick of each disaster along with the characters.  Readers will find themselves unable to turn the pages fast enough to know if the four protagonists survive their respective life-threatening dilemmas.  At the publisher's website, you can watch a video with the author speaking about this book.  At the other Scholastic site, you can read an excerpt.  At the conclusion of the book is an extensive author's note.  Alan Gratz also talks about the real climate change disasters that are the basis for those of the four characters.

Dear Reader,

Climate change---the idea that human activity impacts the Earth's weather patterns---started to enter the public consciousness right around the time I was born, in the early 1970s.  But in the fifty years since, as the temperature of the Earth has continued to go up and sea levels have continued to rise, climate change has remained for many an afterthought.  . . .

After the completion of this letter to readers (I am using an ARC.), we are immediately taken to part one for each of the characters.  Akira living in The Sierra Nevada, California is trapped while out horseback riding in a horrendous bushfire.  In Churchill, Manitoba, friends, George and Owen, are being hunted by polar bears unable to cross the sea ice for food due to melting.  Natalie is literally swept away in the wind and churning waters of a hurricane in Miami, Florida.

For each of the six parts, we visit each place in alternating chapters.  Alan Gratz ends each part with edge-of-your-seat cliffhangers.  In each situation, the reality of what happens is clearly depicted.  The bushfire is so hot it melts the metal on cars.  A horse's life is saved by resting in a swimming pool.  George and Owen are attacked by a female polar bear when they get distracted by a cub.  They barely survive that attack.  Did you know polar bears hide in the snow and cover their darker noses with their paws so they blend in?  Storm surge is deadly.  It can completely change a landscape and anything in its path.  It can place a manatee in a swimming pool at the top of a building.  

In addition to this climate change book rightfully labeled a thriller, it delivers a surprise at the end.  These four characters live far from each other, but something larger and more important will close the distance between them.  This book would make a superb read aloud.  Your readers will beg you to keep reading.

Alan Gratz has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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