The Circle of Life: A Review of This Is the Sun

This Is the Sun

This Is the Sun
Elizabeth Everett
Illustrated by Evelline Andrya
Science Naturally
October 2022
Ages 4-7

A vibrant geometric sun shines its rays on the undulating earth below. Thus begins this brilliant and bouncy circle of life story told as a cumulative tale to the rhythm of “The House That Jack Built.” Moving from the sun, to the tree, to the flower, and so on Everett walks readers though the tale with simple text, easily digestible by preschool story times or early independent readers. Lush, full-color, digital collage illustrations complement the spare text. With text to the left of the spread and full-page illustrations to the right, Andrya layers in each new element of the story and introduces a seek-and-find component. Can you find the bug, on the leaf, on the tree? The text and art are both reminiscent of Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar. This familiar format, combined with the cadence of a well-known nursery rhyme, lends the nonfiction text to story time in a way most NF does not. Adding to its utility, the book will be available in both English and Spanish, with teacher resources available on the publisher’s website after publication.

This deceptively simple story elegantly introduces the complex topic of our interdependent ecosystem and helps young readers see their place in it.

Paving the Way For Future Generations: A Review of Bessie the Motorcycle Queen

Bessie the Motorcycle Queen
Charles R. Smith, Jr.
Illustrated by Charlot Kristensen
Scholastic Inc. / Orchard Books
September 20, 2022
Ages 6 to 8

Through rhyming verse, Bessie the Motorcycle Queen tells the story of little-known adventurer, Bessie Stringfield. A Black motorcyclist, she was known for her spontaneous, cross-country motorcycle rides, flair for the dramatic, and ability to cruise easily past her white, male competitors. Fighting against conditions in the Jim Crow-era South, Bessie was often forced to sleep under the stars when motels rejected her, was chased by Klan members, and cheated out of her race winnings. The impulsive, determined, and highly skilled Bessie gives author Charles Smith, Jr. plenty of tales for an action-packed ride. His verse maintains a quick pace and fun tone, despite some heavy content, even if some lines are a bit clunky. The sherbet-flavored color palette, laid over the modern digital paintings, immediately places the story in the 1920s. Elements like her wheat penny, which she flipped to decide her next location, add to the period details and her legend. The rough, lineless illustrations feel cartoon-like and energetic, with Bessie and her motorcycle significantly more detailed than everything else, keeping the reader’s eyes always on her. The backmatter includes an author’s note explaining his discovery of Bessie’s story, and the inspiration he found in her bravery, as well as a bibliography with books and online articles for additional reading on Bessie.

With races, car chases, and daring motorcycle stunts, this tall tale of an overlooked historical figure shines a spotlight on her bravery and spirit in a story of empowerment.

Bedtime for Creatures Great and Small: A Review of Sleep

Sleep cover art

Sleep
Barbara Herkert
Illustrated by Daniel Long
Albert Whitman & Co.
October 1, 2022
Ages 4-8

Humans require less sleep as they grow older. Grey whales float on the water’s surface to breathe while they sleep. Most mammals and birds exhibit signs of REM sleep, which means they may dream like humans. All living things with a nervous system need sleep, from dogs to insects to sharks to us; sleep specifics just depend on the type of animal and its habitat. Sleep, written by Barbara Herkert and illustrated by Daniel Long, dives deep into the world of slumber with detailed facts about sleep patterns, cycles, and the differences between sleep needs and experiences in humans and animals.

Filled with a lush color scheme and vivid images, the book resonates calm, perfect for this topic of sleep and making it a relaxing bedtime read. Each image is digitally illustrated, in a similar style to mixed media collages, but shaded to bring out depth and textures, which brings each animal to life. Long’s images are vibrant, but simply detailed, keeping them from distracting from the information provided on each page. Sedate pacing prevents the fact-heavy text from overwhelming readers. With a background in biology and fine arts, Barbara Herkert provides facts in a tone filled with admiration for the natural world that complements the extraordinary details she provides. The author also includes a glossary and additional resources as backmatter for those who would like to continue researching the world of sleep. Working through interesting information on humans and animals, the book takes young readers on a mind-opening adventure into the world of sleep and the extraordinary world we live in.


Fact or Fiction: A Review of What the Fact?: Finding the Truth in All the Noise

What the Fact?: Finding the Truth in All the Noise 
Dr. Seema Yasmin 
Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
September 20, 2022 
Ages 12 and up 

In What the Fact?, Dr. Seema Yasmin reveals how people interact with trillions of bytes of data every second and, depending on if it’s fact or fiction, can spark a viral information outbreak leading to fear or hatred. By using a virus as a metaphor for the spread of false information, Yasmin states why people fall for false information and biases, how news sources have changed over decades, and how social media has become the biggest influence on minds, both young and old. From beginning to end, Yasmin encourages readers to be freethinkers and be suspicious of information received from social media, social circles, or any supposedly credible source. 

Throughout the book, the author uses a humorous but down-to-earth tone that encourages readers to keep reading and provides small sidebars that give brain breaks between the chunks of information. Using graphs, pictures, and historical references all backed up by a thorough list of sources in the appendix, the novel is helpfully organized by topic, such as COVID-19, historical events, and governmental issues. Yasmin’s vast experience in fact-based fields—she attended medical school at Cambridge University, worked as a disease detective for the US government and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—has her well-versed in sorting through the noise for the facts beneath. Technical terminology is explained in a way that educates readers on how it is being used and defined, making it easy to follow along. Yasmin, very early in the book, states that this book is just a magnifying glass into how beliefs, thoughts, ideas, actions, etc. are influenced by approximately “1,099,511,627,776,000” (pg. 2) bytes processed and stored in the brain and that this is not a book that is going to tell readers how to think. This information-rich book describes the exhaustion and confusion of being aware of all information, yet bolsters all types of readers to gain skills in critical thinking, media, and digital literacy so they can thoughtfully navigate the information-rich world we live in. 

Be a Solution-Seeker: A Review of Girls Who Green the World: Thirty-four Rebel Women Out to Save Our Planet

Girls Who Green the World: Thirty-four Rebel Women Out to Save Our Planet
Diana Kapp
Illustrated by Ana Jarén
Penguin Random House, Delacorte Press
April 5, 2022
Ages 12 and up

In a news cycle (and world) seemingly full of climate disasters, we need stories of women stepping up to fight them more than ever. In Girls Who Green the World, journalist Diana Kapp profiles 34 problem-solvers engaged in this work. They are environmental superheroes and these are their origin stories. No two are the same, with women of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels—from students to Fortune 500 executives—and their personal moments of bravery and inspiration. Mary Anne Hitt spends her time and passion fighting against new coal plants and closing existing ones. Komal Ahmad is tackling “the world’s biggest problem”—food waste at restaurants and facilities while neighbors fight hunger. And Jannice Newson and Nana Britwum, who combined their STEM know-how and conservationist drive to create braids with fiber extracted from invasive plant material. Through interviews with these problem solvers, Kapp uncovers their motivations, successes, and failures with hope, humor, and compassion for their struggles. Each profile begins with a “get to know you” Q&A before exploring each woman’s journey from problem to action. Facts about the associated issues and action-items are included throughout and provide both shock value (“… humans produce 320 lbs. of waste per person, per year.” (36)) and a way to channel outrage to outcomes. Spanish fashion illustrator Ana Jarén brings each woman to life with vibrant and detailed hand-drawn portraits that glow with personality. Her interstitial illustrations help to lighten the tone with color and whimsy. A final “Now What?” chapter encourages introspection before action, to move individuals from reader to changemaker. Kapp uses the chapter to offer inspiration and guidance toward a unique path rather than to preach.

A collected portrait of hope and motivation for tomorrow’s changemakers.

Brain Gain: A Review of Goodnight to Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

Goodnight to Your Fantastic Elastic Brain
JoAnn Deak, PhD and Terrence Deak, PhD
Illustrated by Neely Daggett
Sourcebooks
April 5th, 2022
Ages 4+

In Good Night to Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, we follow Brain, the pink walnut-looking organ in your head, starting with a brief and general explanation of what Brain does, and going through their nightly checklist, from development all the way through dreaming. With each task coming in the order they happen through a sleep cycle. As psychologists, the authors, Doctors JoAnn and Terrance Deak’s passion for the topic is evident. Using a tone of “isn’t the brain cool!” keeps the reader engaged and never talks down to them. Excelling when paired with a completely natural but potentially scary topic like REM paralysis that is part of dreaming. Illustrations by Neely Daggett are simple abstractions with implied details. For example, Brain has bumps along its edge letting the reader do the work of extrapolating the wrinkles in their mind without cluttering the illustrations. In diagrams, while not realistic, they show locations for different sections of the brain accurately, substituting the anthropomorphic brain for a clear cross-section in profile with colored highlights. The art and the writing use metaphors to explain brain processes to readers, using abstractions like stamping when creating memories and baths when Brain needs to clean themselves, to give children simple reasons to want to sleep. The journey through a sleep cycle wraps up with a reiteration that your brain is you, what happens if you don’t sleep well, and actionable advice on how to improve your sleep that is useful for everybody, not just children. One missing feature is a bibliography or a list of continued reading resources for those who want more.

An enthusiastic explainer made for kids who need a good reason to hit the hay.

Butler Bookshelf

This week’s Butler Bookshelf features recently released and coming soon titles! Once Upon Another Time is the beginning of the storybook character mixing trilogy of middle-grade novels by James Riley. Follow Jin, a young genie, and Lena, the kid of giants, as they try to stop the machinations of the Golden King! Check it out along with the other titles below!

How to Build a Human In Seven Evolutionary Steps
Written by Pamela S. Turner and Illustrated by John Gurche
Published by Charlesbridge
Available April 12th!

Once Upon Another Time
Written by James Riley
Published by Aladdin
Available today!

Planting a Garden in Room 6
Written by Caroline Arnold
Published by Charlesbridge
Available now!

Powwow Day
Written by Traci Sorell and Illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight
Published by Charlesbridge
Available now!

She Gets the Girl
Written by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available today!

Smitten with Kittens
Written by Florence Minor and Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Published by Charlesbridge
Available now!

Butler Bookshelf

This week’s Butler Bookshelf features recently released and coming soon titles! In Some Questions about Trees by Toni Yuly, an inquisitive child asks about the trees they see on their simply illustrated adventure. Check it out along with the other titles below!

Bristlecone: The Secret Life of the World’s Oldest Tree
Written by Alexander Siy and Illustrated by Marlo Garnsworthy
Published by Web of Life Children’s Books
Available June 19th, 2022!

The Fairy Garden
Written by Georgia Buckthorn and Illustrated by Isabella Mazzanti
Published by Ivy Kids
Available April 5th, 2022!

Little People, Big Dreams: Florence Nightingale
Written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley
Published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Available now!

Make This Book Wild
Written by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks and Illustrated by Anna Ivanir
Published by Wide Eye
Available now!

My World in 100 Words: My Garden
Illustrated by Marijke Buurlage
Published by Happy Yak
Available now!

Some Questions About Trees
Written and Illustrated by Toni Yuly
Published by Atheneum Books For Young Readers
Available Today!

Butler Bookshelf

This week’s Butler Bookshelf features recently released and coming soon titles! In Stella Keeps the Sun Up written by Clothilde Ewing and illustrated by Lynn Gaines, Stella schemes to keep the sun up so she never has a bedtime! She learns the benefits of sleeping and why going to bed is great. Check it out along with the other titles below!

Catalina Incognito
Written by Jennifer Torres and Illustrated by Gladys Jose
Published by Aladdin
Available now!

Darryl’s Dream
Written by Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Shawnee, Johnny Warfield, and Adam Padilla. Illustrated by Tristan Tait
Published by King of Rock Publishing
Available now!

Emile and the Field
Written by Kevin Young and Illustrated by Choima Ebinama
Published by Make Me a World
Available April 15th!

Finn and the Subatomic Slip-and-Slide
Written by Micheal Buckley
Published by Delacorte Press
Available now!

Lady Icarus: Balloonomania and the Brief, Bold Life of Sophie Blanchard
Written by Deborah Noyes
Published by Random House Studio
Available now!

Stella Keeps the Sun Up
Written by Clothhilde Ewing and Illustrated by Lynn Gaines
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Availible now!

Fact versus fiction: The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb

The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb
Candace Fleming
Scholastic
Available September 7, 2021
Ages 8-12

A pharaoh’s tomb—blessed or cursed, ransacked, then lost to sand and time. Until Lord Carnarvon, with money, enthusiasm and a gambling spirit, met Howard Carter with his meticulous methods and love of the hunt. Together they would make one of the most glorious and scientifically significant finds in Egyptian archeology—the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Chronicling the years leading up to the discovery and through Howard Carter’s death, Fleming digs into the shaky allegiances and scheming politics of archeology in Egypt, the colonialist role of the British, and the tragedies that plagued those associated with the venture. She subtly calls out the dichotomy between Carter’s painstaking scientific methodology for excavation and conservation, and his near total disregard for Tut’s human remains. The attention to photographing and labeling all the items and events, and only recording the names of the Europeans in the photos. Heavily based on source materials from those associated with the dig, including Carter’s notes, diaries, and books, the text moves from sympathy for his point of view to questioning his attention to anything other than his work, including the growing agitation for Egyptian self-rule. Interspersed through the chapters, “It was said” tales string together sensational stories attributed to the curse; including car accidents, dead pets, and fatal illnesses. And in something of an anti-climax, Fleming devotes just a few brief paragraphs to her conclusion: “There were no curses inscribed anywhere in Tutankhamun’s tomb.” (244) This recounting of the Carnarvon and Carter’s discovery, full of detailed photography, maps, and illustrations, ties a thorough timeline of actual events to a more melodramatic story of the curse.

*review based on printed ARC page numbering