The Great Outdoors

Although I missed the #pb10for10, for our newly created blog, I thought I would add a post about some great picture books featuring the great outdoors, some new, some perhaps you have forgotten or some who do not know. Here they are in alphabetical order by title

At the Pond by Geraldo Valério

A wordless books where a young boy with his dog visits a pond on a grey dull day and befriends a swan. The swan invites the two to ride on his back and they enjoy a colourful afternoon and the boy takes the dog off the leash allowing him to play with the other animals. The boy and the swan continue to enjoy the beautiful afternoon together until the boy places the dog’s lease around the neck of the swan. The sky becomes dark and the other swans and wildlife disappear. The boy finally realizes to be a true friend he must allow the swan to be free.

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

Ernestine is about to go on her very first camping trip with her cousin Samantha and her aunt Jackie. Ernestine finds out there is a lot of gear that one must take and that camping is not as easy as it looks. From setting up the tent, to swimming with fish to eating tofu hotdogs, will this trip be memorable or a nightmare. Wonderful illustrations, with a variety of textures and tones that will keep readers looking for the details. A great story to discuss mindset and how being open minded may bring along some wonderful surprises and memories.

Goodnight Veggies by Diana Murray, Illustrated by Zachariah OHora 

A delightful look at various vegetables in a rooftop garden getting ready to rest for the night. Full of alliterations and rhyming couplets, readers will be taken on a tour with an earthworm through the garden visiting tuckered-out tomatoes, droopy pods of peas and even cranky corn. OHora’s illustrations are captivating and colourful as the sky darkens into the dead of night. A great addition to add for garden, plant and veggie enthusiasts.

The Hike by Alison Farrell

Oh my how I enjoyed reading this book by @alisondraws. A perfect blend of nature, science and the arts. Three friends venture off on a hike encountering various struggles and joys. What sets this book apart from others is the labels throughout the book of all the things the friends can see and enjoy. Each have a sketchbook and add their own ideas and at the end is a glossary and also additional information about various topics such as invasive species. This is a must add for libraries and classrooms – there is so many ways to read this book from the simple story to learning about the various animals and plants. There is so much to see and learn this is a book that will be enjoyed with more than one reading.

If You Take Away the Otter by Susannah Buhrman-Deever,  

Illustrated by Matthew Trueman 

Another gorgeous book for young conservationists and a mentor text to look at cause and effect. In this informational book, author Susanah Buhrman-Deever introduces readers to another forest that is found beneath the sea – the kelp forest. We learn how the kelp forest grows and as a result is a natural habitat for many other plants and animals including the sea otter. We then learn a bit about how when the Europeans began over hunting the sea otters for their pelts to the point of extinction things in the ocean changed not only below the water but above as well. With no otters, the major hunters within the kelp forest, sea urchins began to take over = destroying the kelp forest, effectively removing a key component to the habitat which had a domino effect below and above the water. When humans finally recognized that the near extinction of the otter impacted more than just the otter, laws were put in place and slowly the habitat returned to its natural balance. Matthew Trueman’s  majestic and colourful hues of blue in this book truly add to the beauty, drawing readers in and give the feeling of being in the water. The narrative texts also includes small captions of additional information that can be read as part of the narrative or alone.

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero

Llewellyn, a quiet rabbit likes to collect things – buttercups, feathers and heart shaped stones and place them in a jar where he could look at them and remember what he had seen. One day he meets another rabbit Evelyn and they become friends and collect things together that you think could not be placed in a jar like rainbows and the wind just before it snows. And together they create these memory jars until Evelyn moves away. Llewellyn figures out he still can collect new memories and send them to Evelyn to share with her creating different memories just as she sends memories to Llewellyn. A beautiful magical story about friendship and the way we can collect memories no matter the distance. .

The Keeper of the Wild Words by Brooke Smith,

Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

A beautiful book about a grandmother who is worried about the loss of the important natural words she grew up with disappearing from everyday language. Grandmother Mimi takes her granddaughter Brook on a walk to discover and find the words that are slowly disappearing, fearful they will be forgotten. As they walk they see a variety of these words that include, insects, plants and even animals. By instilling the love of these natural words, with her granddaughter, Mimi knows they will live on. Inspired by real life events, the author read an article where natural words were removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary for Children as it was felt they were no longer relevant to children. Takin matters into her own hands, Brooke wrote this book to ensure that children can experience nature and the vocabulary associated with it. A great way to talk about language and how it changes, and who determines if it is important or not.

The Not So Great Outdoors by Madeline Kloepper

A young city girl is reluctantly dragged out of the city to the great outdoors with her family. As they set up camp and take in the beauty of the campsite, the girl complains about all the things the outdoors does not have, no electricity or sculptures, playgrounds or city lights. Each page shows what this girl is missing – campfires, waterfalls, all kinds of natural things to play on, the northern light and the many animals that live in the forest. Then she begins to compare the things her family does like catching a fish to catching a bus, comparing the different types of contractions workers in nature (beavers) to the city and how food around a campfire is pretty tasty and realizes the outdoors is not such a bad place to spend time after all.

The Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

I loved @brendan_wenzel They All Saw a Cat but this book resonates with me even more. Billed as a companion book to its predecessor, A Stone Sat Still again tackles perspective – but I found this book more introspective making me think of the stone and my potential relationship. The stone is still, but depending upon what or who the stone can be loud and quiet, used as a kitchen, smooth or rough. This book could spark lots of discussion about nature, not only our perspective of the stone, but also our place in nature.

We Are the Water Protectors by by Carole Lindstrom,

Illustrated by  Michaela Goade 

This book is a must have for classrooms and libraries and takes an Indigenous view to only of water but the responsibilities we have as people to protect the water on Mother Earth. In this stunning picture book, Carole Lindstrom, explains the importance of water and how water connects us to Mother Earth and to all living things. Lindstom then talks about the “black snake” that is coming and will destroy the water, the land, the animals and anything in its path. From here we shift from information to activism and how coming together they can stand against the black snake. She speaks about how it will take courage and not be easy to speak for those who cannot, the rivers, the animals, the earth to speak for them. The illustrations by Micheal Goade are incredibly beautiful and flows like water. The analogy of the black snake in contrast to the other illustrations is very dark, rigid and symmetrical and resembles the pipeline. At the back is further information about the Dakota pipeline, where to find more information and a pledge to become a Water Protector.

I am always on the look out for new authors and illustrators with a passion for nature. What books would you add to the list?

ICK!: Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses

Author: Melissa Stewart

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Release Date: June 23/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Media Masters for a digital copy of this book.

National Geographic Kids has scored big time with their recent release of prolific author Melissa Stewart’s latest nonfiction book Ick!: Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses. As one would expect, National Geographic does not disappoint with the vibrant and detailed photographs of the disgusting dinners, dwellings and defences and readers are going to devour this book!

As a teacher librarian there are certain things, I would look for when selecting nonfiction texts for my schools. The number and variety of text features was one area of selection and ICK! does not disappoint. This book has variety of text features that not only can be used for teaching the various text features but also will be engaging for the reader. In terms of text features, the reader will encounter the standards: table of contents, glossary, index, captions and photos but it is the layout and the short engaging pieces that will allow readers of all ages to flip through, find specific information or read cover to cover.

The book is divided by the sections in the title looking at Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings and Disgusting Defenses ( and no the alliteration is not lost on this educator). Each section is colour coded which will help the reader understand what section of the book they are in and each animal has a detailed photo of itself and then other text feature highlights.

So looking at example from the Disgusting Dinner section, readers are not overwhelmed by text. Each page provides information on how the dinner, dwelling or defines is disgusting along with a captivating photo supporting the text. Each animal presented, has a STAT STACK providing the reader with a quick overview about the habitat, size, weight, predators and lifespan.

In addition, Ms. Stewart includes additional information that is related to other animals or to the topic at hand. In the case of the turkey vulture, we learn how the bird stays cool by eliminating waste onto its legs, so when the water evaporates it cools the bird. Kids will love sharing these gross but important facts with friends, but suspect will take particular joy sharing with adults.

Ms. Stewart is a go to author for me, knowing that the information will be presented in an engaging manner but also filled with valuable information. This will be a popular addition to your classrooms and libraries.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Can an Aardvark Bark?, Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, and Seashells: More than a Home

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

A Whale of the Wild

Author: Rosanne Parry, Illustrator: Lindsay Moore

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: Sept. 1/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+, publisher Greenwillow Books and author Rosanne Parry.

Another survival story, this time from a whale’s perspective. A pod of Resident whales are on their way to feed on the Chinook salmon returning from the ocean. We meet Vega, a young female, too young to be a mother and too old to be considered a child learning the ways of their pod from her Greatmother, until one day Vega will be a wayfinder leading the pod to the precious salmon the pod needs. Through Vegas eyes we learn the ways of the Resident orcas and the special relationships between brothers and sisters. We experience the waters of the Salish Sea, other wildlife, and an earthquake that sends Vega out to the ocean that is rare for her species.

Fans of A Wolf Called Wander and those who love whales are going to enjoy this story not only of survival but the relationships within the pod. Readers will gain a great deal of knowledge about Resident orcas from the ways they communicate, the roles males and females have to how they interact with this ecosystem with other types of orcas and humans including intertwining the First Nations perspective and relationship to the land and animals. There is an abundance of back matter including information about orcas, salmon, the tribes of the Salish Sea Watershed, habitats, earthquakes, tsunamis and ways individuals can help. A unique addition for readers who love animals – a recommended addition for classrooms and libraries.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: A Wolf Called Wander, The Turn of the Tide, Written in Stone

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival, Crochet: 25 Easy Patterns for Beginners: A Step-By-Step Guide to Mastering the Basics While Having Fun

RECOMMENDED: Gr 4+

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree

Author: Mary Murphy

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: March 10, 2020

Reviewer: Laurie

Mary Murphy is a new author illustrator to me but I definitely will be spending some time checking out her other books.

It’s back to school time and teachers will be looking for that perfect first #classroombookaday and/or story to share with their students. As always, there are many books worthy of this special event and released appropriately so, in August and September to fit this niche. I am going to go back into the archives a bit to March 10 of this year and offer Only a Tree knows how to be a tree for your consideration.

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree is a simplistic but important message to young and old readers alike. Murphy begins the book by explaining how a tree is able to do turn sunshine into food and how it can provide a home and shelter and states “Only a Tree knows how to be a tree.” From there we are logically taken to a bird and what makes it unique always ending with Only a ____knows how to be a _____.

One of the many beautiful things about this book is that Murphy does not stick with animals, we learn about the earth, the stars and the universe – that every single thing or living being is different. Then she brings it all back by connecting it to people . People that are diversely represented by colour by gender and by abilities and that we all have our own thoughts and “Only I know how to be me. And only you know how to be you.”

The illustrations are inviting and vibrant on the two page spreads and use a lot of white space on others so we can focus in on the drawings.

This is a wonderful book to engage in before during and after reading discussions. One can touch on environmental concerns and how we can look after the earth, talk about what is out in the universe to discussing different cultures and how we are different and yet the same.

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree fits all those boxes that one wants at the beginning of the school year ( identity, community, nature to name a few) but do not be fooled, this is a book that defies time – it does not have to be a back to school book but could and should be enjoyed anytime.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Good Night Like This , Crocopotamus: Mix and match the wild animals! , and Say Hello Like This! 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: K-8

Hike

Author: Pete Oswald

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: March 17/20

Reviewer: Laurie

I’m a sucker for wordless books and when the topic is nature I’m all in. Pete Oswald has created a masterpiece with this book with a beautiful surprise at the end.

A genderless child and father are preparing for a Hike. We see the child’s room scattered with books, drawings, trail guides, binoculars and a camera along with posters on the wall all related to the outdoors. Finally the day for the hike arrives and we see the child and dad getting ready, packing up the jeep and leaving the city for the winding road to the forest and where they will hike.

As they start their journey we are treated to waterfalls, and wildlife, with varying perspectives from side views to bird’s eye views of the gorgeous scenery the two are enjoying. We see them at different elevations , checking out fish in a pond, having a snowball fight and then they reach the summit to take in the view and complete a task they set out to accomplish.

An absolute gorgeous story with beautiful illustrations that include two page spreads to small snippets with white space so we can truly focus on the passage of time and the smaller details in the illustrations. One of my very favourite finds this year.

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Author: Candace Fleming

Illustrated by: Eric Rohmann

Publisher: Neal Porter Books

Release Date: Feb. 20/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Pardon the pun, but there has been so much “buzz” about this book, I finally borrowed this title from my local library. It appears that I am may not be alone as it doesn’t show up yet (some may be processing it) in my old school division and I hope that will change as it should be in all elementary school libraries and know some will want it for their own classroom libraries.

With the current interest in the environment, certain animals have been put on our radar due to their struggling populations. Bees are one example of sadly many, that have been brought to our attention. Candace Fleming does a beautiful job giving us the life cycle of one bee by personalizing the bee using its scientific name to use as a name.

“Soft, fuzzy and female- like all newly emerged worker bees-her scientific name is Apis mellifera or Apis for short.”

Then Fleming proceeds to tell us all the many things Apis will do always ending with a prompt about flying as surely that would be next. And here lies the genius of the narrative – we learn of so many jobs Apis will do before she flies from inspecting the larva, tending to the queen bee, making the honeycombs to making the honey – all before she flies.

And then you have Eric Rohmann and those illustrations! Those gorgeous two page spreads that just invite you to stroke your fingers over the page of a BEE no less!

Inviting and curious…not scary!

When we finally do get to see Apis emerge out of the nest, it is a fold out four page spread that allows the reader to see how vast the world must look to her. Apis has a new job to do and off she goes to gather the nectar to bring back to the nest.

Finally, readers are shown in a delicate, but truthful way, the ending of a life cycle with Apis laying still after 35 days, flying 500 miles, visiting 30 000 flowers and collecting enough nectar to make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. Remarkable.

End papers include ways readers can activate their learning to help honeybees along with another beautiful 2 page spread giving further details about Apis’s anatomy.

A must have addition for school and public libraries and again an inviting book for classrooms not only to learn about honeybees but the interconnectedness in ecosystems. This would fit into many science curricular units and also social studies when we think of the impact humans have on the land.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Giant Squid, Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart , Oh, No! 

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: Giant Squid, My Friend Rabbit , Bone Dog 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: K+