Itâ€™s not often that a tree serves as the narrator of a novel. Bay Area Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate pulls off the challenge with natural grace and grand purpose. Her red oak is old, wise and optimistic; home to many; observer and occasional agent; historian and storyteller with humans usually off limits. By tradition each May, local folk hang their wishes on branches, and one is from a Muslim girl, new to the neighborhood and the target of prejudice. As the tree faces a cruel fate, story lines converge over whatâ€™s right. Animal characters are lovingly developed, seen in soft ink drawings that decorate many pages. The ending is perhaps predictable but just right. Perfect as a read-aloud, this nuanced page-turner possesses a strong moral core, coming down squarely on the side of community, cooperation and kindness.
The youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever here pens a resounding memoir for younger kids. (â€œI Am Malala,â€ from 2014, is for tweens.) Now 20, Malala recalls how years ago, she â€œwanted a magic pencil.â€ Why? â€œI would use it to make other people happyâ€ and to erase war, poverty and hunger. Instead, Malala uses a real pencil to advocate for girlsâ€™ education in Pakistanâ€™s Swat Valley. Then, she explains, â€œDangerous men tried to silence me.â€ Thatâ€™s it for the Talibanâ€™s attempt on her life. The emphasis is on Malalaâ€™s continued work worldwide. Illuminated with gold, rather pretty watercolors soften the harsh reality that some might feel is too much too soon. Because everyone deserves to know whatâ€™s what, Malalaâ€™s own measured voice makes this the right book for the right reason, even for kindergartners.
Stand under a shower of red, yellow and orange. Toss fallen leaves into the air. Especially on the West Coast, where itâ€™s autumn-lite, celebrate the season in this warm companion to â€œWhen Spring Comes.â€ A wonderfully talented husband-and-wife team follows a girl in hooded jacket and yellow boots, taking in the many signs of fall â€” turned foliage, a mostly gray sky, chilly air, frisky squirrels, browned gardens, big pumpkins and ripe apples. The simple, understated story line works with the solidly outlined acrylics to place readers into a sensory experience â€” sights, sounds and taste. And there is an allusion to whatâ€™s coming: snowflakes at bookâ€™s end. Yes, fall is the subject, but change is the theme, the annual kind that preschoolers are just sorting out for themselves. Might tributes to winter and summer be next? Letâ€™s hope so.
Mention of underwear is always good for a giggle. Thus, glow-in-the-dark briefs start out funny but turn frightening in this perfect-for-Halloween tale. From the creators of the award-winning â€œCreepy Carrotsâ€ comes more about dear Jasper. â€œNot a little bunny anymore,â€ he gets to choose his own underwear, bypassing â€œPlain Whiteâ€ at the store. He goes for â€œcomfyâ€ and â€œcoolâ€ with a monster motif, ignoring Momâ€™s good counsel. â€œI think theyâ€™re a little too creepy,â€ she says. Fact is sheâ€™s right. Too scared to sleep in them, Jasper tries to get rid of the ever more ubiquitous briefs. He throws them in a hamper, garbage can, mailbox and hole. They keep coming back! On midnight-black pages that emit ghoulish green, the story unfolds with just-right psychological drama, showing how Jasperâ€™s fear and frustration eventually morphs into a growth experience.
In 1837, an 18-year-old girl finds herself queen of England. Her odd childhood as spare heir; her complicated roles as wife, mother and widow; and her long, tumultuous reign make for a most intriguing life story. Young royal watchers will revel in the details. Victoria is a fast eater, quick study and victim of postpartum blues. She courts major politicians of the day, rules a global empire and presides over unprecedented technological and social change. Her name is synonymous with an era. Graceful decorations fancy up the book while archival photos give a personal touch to the past. This is an exemplary portrait with warts and all, humanizing an iconic figure. Included is a family tree (thereâ€™s little George and Charlotte) and an explanation of limited monarchy. It adds up to a juicy but meaty PBS-like series on paper.
This restrained and relevant treatise gives wonderfully clear entree to requisite biodiversity. The main point: â€œEvery kind of living thing is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern. The trouble is, all over the world, human beings are destroying pieces of the pattern.â€ Translation: Chemicals, over-fishing and deforestation are wreaking havoc with our planet. Message: Do something! Finely detailed watercolors show macro and micro views of diverse habitats, creatures and threats â€” the environmental kind. The storytelling is smooth, and the science is sound with tantalizing random facts sprinkled over busy pages. Did you know that there are 2 million kinds of living things, with new ones discovered each year? Information and ideas mix easily to satisfy curious kids and encourage a worthy goal: to practice more responsible stewardship of the environment.
Susan Faust is a member of the Association for Library Service to Children. She was a librarian at Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco for 33 years. Email: email@example.com