The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth

Cindy: Can we talk? A few years ago when one of my white 8th-grade students read The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas, she talked with me about it afterward. She expressed her shock at learning about “The Talk,” the one that black parents need to have with their children as they become drivers to help keep them safe during traffic stops. She said to me, “My parents never had that talk with me.” It was an important awakening for her. The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth (Crown, 2020) edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson will cause similar awakenings for some children and teens, and for others, the experiences and stories related here will be all too familiar. This illustrated collection of stories, poems, and essays illuminates the need for many different “talks” as parents help their children navigate prejudice due to race, religion, gender, sexuality, and other ways that people find to categorize people as “other,” “less than,” and “dangerous.”

Renee Watson launches the collection with a powerful talk for black girls in “Remember This,” as she reminds them of the many black heroines who led the way, of the power of your voice, and the encouragement to be your best self even when others around you cannot be theirs. Grace Lin takes on Asian stereotyping and female diminishment in “Not a China Doll, an illustrated letter to her daughter at ten (five years in the future). “Why Are There Racist People,” was generated by a school visit question asked of Mexican author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh, one that he struggled to answer. This talk is the result of his research, reading, and thought. Tonatiuh illustrates his own entry, others are done by other talented artists. I read this in an advanced reader copy and I’m eager to see the finished copy including the unavailable backmatter. Talking to our children and to each other is a powerful way to build relationships. Let’s talk.

Lynn: This year especially has seen the publication of several outstanding books for teens on the subject of racism and authored by the voices of writers who have first- hand experience. All of them have informed and challenged me. Perhaps it is the teacher in me but this slim book tops the list for me. Its format of short contributions is perfect for reading aloud in a classroom where instructional time is often highly regimented. Each piece is powerful, moving, and absolutely ideal for use as discussion starters or writing prompts. The wonderful variety means that there is something here for every reader and every reader will find a favorite.

My own favorites start with Derrick Barnes’ story about a kitchen-table conversation with his young son while helping him with math homework. It is an experience most of us, young and old, have had and the commonality of it contrasts starkly with the racism the little boy has just experienced. For young readers of color it will be instantly recognizable and for white readers it will be, as it was for me, jarring. For all readers it will be incredibly moving and deeply memorable.

There are so many powerful pieces here and I also especially appreciated Tracy Baptiste’s driving lesson advice to her son, Nikki Grimes’ poem about choosing “not to pick up the hurtful words thrown like stones,” and Adam Gidwitz’s essay that brought a wholly different look at racism. The black and white illustrations are as varied and as effective as the text contributions and add greatly to the overall impact of the book.

This slim but important book should be in every classroom and library collection in the country. It is truly a gem and opens the door to conversations among all of us about racism, discrimination and the social condition of our country.

Ticks in Her Nose – the Story of a Wildlife Photographer for Kids

Lynn: Books for really young readers on careers are not easy to do well but a wildlife photographer/author that I especially admire, Suzy Eszterhas, has given us just that in My Wild Life: Adventures of a Wildlife Photographer (Owl Kids, 2020).  This fascinating story comes with a real bonus as the pertinent information includes a bounty of wonderful photographs that clearly expand on the points being made in the text. Eszterhas confides that she wanted to be a wildlife photographer as a child and she spent many hours in her backyard photographing her cats and squirrels, practicing the skills she would need.

Taking readers through many of the fascinating and challenging aspects of her job, Eszterhas provides information about how she preps the shots, finds and allows animals to grow confident around her, some of the techniques she uses to get shots including lying for hours belly down to achieve eye-level pictures and even flying in small airplanes—which makes her throw up in between clicking the shutter. She doesn’t pull any punches about the conditions she often has to live and work in. Kids will love some of the details like having to pee in a bottle while in a camouflaged blind, living in a tent for months without a shower, or waking up with ticks in her nose. She stresses that patience and having to wait for hours is often the key to success. And it is clear that being a woman in this very male-dominated field takes courage and determination.

Each chapter is an accessible and appealing 2 pages, which is ideal for young readers and the clear text is as informative as it is interesting. Several chapters are about the local experts and the scientists she works with and explains about her dedication to giving back to organizations that help wildlife. A concluding chapter is titled “Ask Suzi” and it provides additional information to questions about the profession.

The terrific photographs will draw readers in starting with the cover which is a beguiling shot of a group of meerkats sheltering from the wind up against her back. This book is sure to be a winner with kids who love nature and animals or are budding photographers themselves. All of them will come away with a real grasp of the skills and hard work necessary for this fascinating career and a deeper appreciation for the outstanding work done by photographers like Eszterhas.

Cindy: Eszterhas is an inspiration. Not only is this book as well done as Lynn says, but Suzi is also donating a portion of her royalties to her nonprofit organization Girls Who Click, a group that “empowers teen girls to enter the male-dominated field of nature photography and use their work to further conservation efforts around the world.” The free nature photography workshops are available online due to the current COVID crisis, perfect for distance and virtual learners. I wish I could take one! If, like us, you can’t get enough of Eszterhas’ extraordinary wildlife photography visit her website for more images that will take your breath away.

Cast Your Vote for Picture Books about Elections

Lynn and Cindy: Unless your pandemic shutdown has included no access to electronic media, you will have noticed that the U.S is fast approaching an important election. Adults everywhere are talking about politics, candidates, and elections and for children, it can all seem mystifying. Happily, authors and publishers have stepped up and there are a lot of picture books currently being published on the subject. Here’s a round-up of a few that we think will help kids make sense of this important topic.

I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference (Holiday House/Neal Porter, 2020) by Mark Shulman.

This book focuses on the idea of making a choice. It starts with the most basic of choices by asking what the reader likes best: ice cream or onions and apples or oranges? The concept slowly broadens by asking the reader to imagine a choice being made by more people such as choosing a class pet. In the simplest of terms that kids can easily understand, the book discusses facts about voting such as sometimes not getting what you want, ways to help people vote for what you want, and how a vote can be held. Broadening more, the topic shifts to grown-ups voting for leaders of their cities, towns, or states, why that is important and how to decide who to vote for. Kid-friendly and very accessible, this is a terrific vehicle for introducing the concept. Back matter includes Five Easy Steps for Voting and information on How Our Government Works. Serge Bloch’s cartoon illustrations make the book very appealing.

Natasha Wing’s The Night Before Election Day (Grosset & Dunlap, 2020) by Natasha Wing

This cheerful book is part of an extensive series told in the tradition of Clement Moore’s Night Before Christmas poem. Each book in the series tells the story of the night before a special event or festival. Here the event is Election Day and the children in the family are reminding their parents that school will be closed the next day so people can vote. Their classes have been decorating, everyone has been getting ready for months, and now the election is here. The basics of what is an election and the voting day process are covered here. Clearly stated yet retaining a child’s perspective, one of the chief joys of the book is the well-conveyed sense of excitement and importance of an election. This will be great to use in the classroom or at home in the fall as election time draws near. Extra nice to have a family of color at the center of the story. We love the idea of helping kids to understand how important AND exciting elections should be.

Vote for Our Future! (Schwartz & Wade, 2020) by Margaret McNamara

A diverse cast of children (and teaching staff) have the day off school in order for their elementary school to transform into a polling station. The children aren’t old enough to vote, but they figure out ways to perform other civic duties in this Get Out the Vote story. Their actions leading up to election day explain voting practices like registration, making a plan for election day, voting early or by mail, and the importance of voting. A gatefold shows a large crowd of people heading to the school to cast their votes in an effort to affect change. In addition to Micah Player’s colorful and lively illustrations throughout, the endpapers include images of political buttons encouraging voting. The end matter includes a list of Acts of Congress that improved life in the United States starting with the 1792 Postal Service Act signed into law by George Washington, and acts to protect national parks, Indian citizens, control air pollution, and protect civil rights, provide protection for Americans with disabilities, and access to affordable health care.

Grace Goes to Washington (Disney/Hyperion, 2019) by Kelly DiPucchio

The first book in this series, Grace for President (Little, Brown, 2008), explained the Electoral College as Grace tried to become the first female US president in her class’ mock election. This second book takes on the three branches of government as Grace’s student council struggles with deciding how to spend their fundraiser profits to best benefit their school. Everyone has a special interest (sports equipment, library books, or musical instruments). We all know how many adults in charge deal with these issues, but perhaps the kids can teach us something? Illustrated by the talented LeUyen Pham and including a field trip to Washington, D.C., an author’s note explaining the branches further, and a list of ideas for becoming an involved citizen, this book has a lot to offer an elementary classroom.

The Next President (Chronicle, 2020) by Kate Messner

And, while we wait to learn who our next president will be, take a stroll through presidential history with Kate Messner and Adam Rex. At any one time, we have approximately ten people alive who will become one of our next presidents, some who are still children and have no idea it will be them one day. Starting with George Washington, there were nine future presidents in the wing. In 1961 there were ten also, four of them just children (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, newly born Barack Obama, and teenager Donald Trump). The following page has stirred some controversy, but careful readers will understand that Kennedy and Obama, and on another wall in the illustration, Hillary Clinton, are representing this text:

“The truth is America’s earliest presidents weren’t all that different from one another. Most were wealthy, white, Protestant men who might have been surprised if they’d been around to see a Catholic or an African American man elected president…or a woman nominated by a major party for the highest office in the land.”

An empty frame labeled “46” awaits the “next” president either this November or another four years from now. Adam Rex’s illustrations are magnificent and complement the interesting details and timelines that Messner researched and threaded together about what each president was doing earlier in their life before becoming America’s Commander in Chief. It’s an inspiring collection for children who wonder what their futures might hold.

A Bounty of Board Books

Lynn and Cindy:

We are in awe of the creativity at work in creating books for young people. That creative spirit begins with books for our very youngest readers too. We’ve been sent some terrific board books lately that are an absolute delight to share with babies and toddlers. Sturdily constructed to withstand tough treatment, these wonderful books are cleverly designed, smartly age-appropriate, and highly entertaining. In short – a perfect recipe for enticing the earliest readers among us. Here is a round-up of a few that have arrived at our doorsteps lately.

A to Z Menagerie by Suzy Ultman (Chronicle, 2019)

Little fingers will delight in tracing the die-cut alphabet letter on each page and then pull a tab to replace the center of the letter with a colorful illustration of an item that begins with that letter. O reveals a round owl face inside the O and is identified with a full body picture and the word “owl” on the pull-out page reveal. Scattered around the featured letter are a variety of colorful line drawings featuring familiar and more original vocabulary items. O includes onion, overalls, octopus, opal, oboe, orca, and an ocelot in an oxford shirt.

AlphaBit: An ABC Quest in 8-bit by Juan Carlos Solon (Chronicle, 2019)

The next generation of gamers may get their start with this seek-and-find alphabet board book with a quest, illustrated in the pixilated 8-bit style of the 80s and 90s video games, or the more recent Minecraft. Each page features a capital letter and four or five items to find in the scene that moves the adventure along. Level up!

Animals in the Sky by Sara Gillingham (Phaidon, 2020)

Whether or not the board book set will be able to find the constellations in the night sky, they will enjoy looking at this introduction to six of the constellations that are identified as animal shapes. Each constellation is presented first as a riddle with the constellation outline. A gatefold opens to identify the animal that answers the riddle. The constellation is superimposed over a drawing of the animal. Another drawing identifies major stars or other shapes within the featured animal. Ten additional animal constellations are included on the final fold-out pages for the overachievers, along with the suggestion for adults to consult a star smartphone app if needed.

First 100 Words: English & Spanish by Susie Jaramillo (Encantos, 2020)

We are past our Nick Jr. television days, but parents of young children will undoubtedly be familiar with the Canticos bilingual sing-along programs. This book is the first in the Canticos Bilingual Firsts board book series to supplement the brand. Thematic double-page spreads introduce vocabulary such as Frog/Rana, Tree/Árbol, Butterfly/Mariposa on the Nature/Naturaleza pages. School, Transportation, Sports, Music, Beach and other themes continue the bilingual vocabulary building with the familiar Canticos characters appearing on the pages too. Colors, opposites, numbers, shapes, feelings, and letters round out the rest of the concepts in the new series.

Make Me a Monster by Mark Rogalski (Chronicle, 2020)

This board book is an immediate eye-catcher as it features a monster face and a circular opening lined with teeth as its cover. Flip the cover upwards and each simple page directs readers to fold out monster attributes like bulging eyes, horns, or a green twisty tale. By the book’s end, readers will have created their very own monster.

My Evil Big Brother Packed My Lunch by Laura Watson (Chronicle, 2020)

Here is a board book “packed” with jokes guaranteed to make young readers groan with delighted horror. Open the lunch box-shaped book to learn that the narrator’s brother has volunteered to pack lunches for the week. On each lower page, see what the boy has requested for lunch. Flip up the fold and discover what was ACTUALLY packed that day. A ham sandwich, carrots, and a cupcake turns out to be a frosting sandwich, a ham cupcake, and carrots with mustard! Funny notes from the brother and disgusting combinations will bring kids back to this fun book again and again.

Our World: A First Book of Geography by Sue Lowell’s  Gallion (Phaidon, 2020)

This uniquely shaped board book opens up to create a 3-D globe that will stand. Simply rhyming text on the left side of the spread is supplemented on the right by more detailed information about the biomes, climate, continents, and our planet. This might be the only globe this generation gets their hands on!

Birding Adventures for Kids: Bird Identification & Activities

Cindy: At the public library, Lynn found this great new birding guide for children getting started in this rewarding hobby that gets them outside and active. Audubon Birding Adventures for Kids (Quarto, 2020) by Elissa Wolfson and Margaret A. Barker is more than just an identification guide. It’s divided into three sections: Meet the Birds, Outside with Birds, and Inside with Birds, the last two provide ideas and directions for games, activities, and adventures to have in order to learn more about the birds.

Most of the 25 birds selected for the Meet the Birds section are ones that are found throughout the United States at one season or another. A range map is provided for each species, just as is provided in identification books published for adults. A color photo of a single or pair of the species is included along with a “fun fact.” Did you know that Hummingbird eggs are the size of peas? Each species is identified by common name, scientific name, field marks, length (in inches and centimeters), and voice descriptions for songs and calls. There’s also information on feeding (what they eat and how they consume it), conservation issues, tips for helping the species (food or plants to provide), and similar species. There are also a few groan-worthy bird jokes thrown in for fun. “What kind of crows always stick together?….Vel-crows!” HAHAHAHA.

Lynn: Following the section Cindy describes are two more sections that the parent/grandparent in me loved. These are the sections that get kids moving, learning, and entertained. These two chapters provide well-designed activities, one set for outside and one for inside. Each activity clearly lists materials needed, directions, follow up, and discoveries. Some are more involved than others but most require just simple materials. One does require binoculars but I liked this one too as a good basic lesson on how to use binoculars. Glossary and an appendix have related bird information.

I learned a lot myself from the information on common birds despite being a life-long birder. Did you know only the female duck “quacks”? Or that Chickadees hide seeds and go back to them months later? This appealing book will help create more birders and will keep kids nicely occupied with science and bird-related activities. This is an ideal book for kids and caregivers both and may be of special interest to everyone with children doing virtual school in this time of Covid-19.

Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots: a Fun Information Literacy Primer for Children

Lynn: You’d have to live in a cave in the wilderness not to know that far too many Americans have a very sketchy concept of what a fact actually is or how to verify it. The need to understand this important issue is one of national importance these days as it is clear that millions of adults don’t grasp the difference and the impact on our culture is stark. Here, with a great way to start addressing the issue, is Michael Rex with a fabulous picture book, Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, 2020). With brightly colored cartoon-style robots, Rex’s appealing book takes on this topic with our youngest readers. The question is posed on the very first page.

“Do you know the difference between a fact and an opinion?

It can be a hard thing to understand. Even these robots get confused.

But maybe if we work together, we can figure it out.”

Taking it step by step, the robots define the two concepts and then provide simple examples to practice. The examples are engaging and child-centered with plenty of humor. The robots are goofy but Rex does a wonderful job of presenting the information in a clear, understandable, and appealing way. Kids are going to WANT to read this book all the way through thanks to the level of humor but more importantly, they are going to grasp and remember this idea. The story also includes the concept of needing to search for more information sometimes and also reminds readers that while we need to respect other people’s opinions, we can’t argue with facts.

If I could, I’d buy this book for every classroom and library in America!

Cindy: What a great way to introduce an important skill in information literacy. Elementary librarians, take note! What if you read this book aloud and then had your students write a declarative sentence and have them present it for the other students to respond with Fact or Opinion? This could work in a virtual class meeting as well. Students could make a 2-sided notecard with the FACT on one side and OPINION on the other and hold them up to their cameras. Lots of ways to use this in an elementary classroom as well.

This book for the very young audience brings to mind a book for older students that we reviewed over at Booklist Reader during the last presidential election cycle and it’s worth mentioning again as the facts, opinions, and faulty logic arguments ratchet up. Read our blog post about Bad Arguments: Learning the Lost Art of Making Sense (The Experiment, 2014) by Ali Almossawi if you missed it the first time around. It’s a good time to separate facts from opinions and to do it without faulty logic.

 

Cats and Dogs and Picture Books

Lynn and Cindy: You can NEVER have too many picture books featuring cats or dogs or both! Here are three terrific books featuring our furry friends.

My Wild Cat (Eerdmanns, 2019) by Isabelle Simler

I don’t know how I missed this one last year but I am so glad I caught up with it now. This is part scientific fact, part poetic description, part affectionate tribute and all stunning illustration. Simler is an illustrator I admire greatly and she clearly knows and loves cats. The book is in a small format, with each set of pages featuring a descriptive phrase, a related scientific fact as a footnote and wonderful drawings in pastel on a white background. The use of shape and form is simply brilliant and there is a smile lurking on every page. A cat is shown in a sink, the tail echoing the curved faucet, draped over a radiator or stalking a fly on a glass. Readers who cohabitate with felines will recognize every scene. Simple yet sophisticated this little gem would be treasured by readers of all ages.

Joy (Candlewick, 2020) by Yasmeen Ismail

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt! Kitten has a ball of red yarn and it’s her favorite toy. An onomatopoetic rhyming play session ensues full of zooms and zams, clops and hops, until a trip, trip, slip, flip results in a bruised kitten, or at least a bruised ego. Her parent comes to the rescue and soothes her until she’s forgotten the hurt and is ready to adventure again. Oh, joy! Jenni Desmond’s mixed media illustrations exude the appropriate joy for Ismail’s rollicking picture book. Anyone who’s watched a kitten (or a young child) at play will appreciate this fun story.

Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 2020) by Nelly Buchet

Blended families come in all shapes. This one features a man and his dog who moves in with a woman and her dog and cat. The story is told almost entirely in the illustrations with the various dog, cat, dog descriptors. There are adjustments to be made in every blended family as the various members learn to adapt to the shifting members and partners, amid lots of humor. Just as things are finally starting to calm down in the blended house a new element, a baby, is added to the mix! The humorous details are in the cartoonish ink illustrations, created by Zuill, who wrote and illustrated one of our favorite books, Sweety (2019). Cat Dog Dog is a current Junior Library Guild Selection, for a very good reason.

Ick! A Book About Toxic Toots and Bubbles of Goo for Kids

Lynn: National Geographic always does a great job of publishing books that kids love but Melissa Stewart’s new book, Ick!: Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners. Dwellings and Defenses (National Geographic, 2020) stands out even from that crowd.

The book is divided into the 3 main chapters listed in the title: dinners, dwellings, and defenses—all icky. All of the delightfully disgusting creatures get their own two-page spread. Each of the creatures featured has the same categories of information provided including a Stat Stack of statistical facts, a general description, Extra Ick with additional or related information, and magnificent large color photographs. Stewart’s writing is terrific! The general descriptions are wonderfully done, snappy, full of groan-worthy puns but also clear, informative, and attention-holding. It is far more than just eww-inducing! There is a lot of great information provided here about why the behavior is employed and the advantages gained by the organism.

Let me be clear. There is plenty of disgusting icky facts that kids will gleefully read and share with everyone around them. How about a lacewing larva that uses its own toxic farts to stun its prey? Or the Caecilian babies who literally eat their mother’s skin? Yup. And of course, there are plenty of poop-related facts like Burrowing Owls who line their underground nests with poop—theirs and anyone else’s they can find. Or read about young Komodo Dragons who roll in their own foul-smelling poop to keep from being eaten by OTHER Komodo Dragons!

I set out on this book, thinking I would read a few pages a day and work my way slowly through but I ended up reading half the book in one sitting and finishing it eagerly the next morning. Stewart’s writing and the fabulous photographs hooked me. It certainly is icky but I learned so much! The excellent back matter includes a Glossary and 2 pages of Selected Sources for additional revolting reading. This is bound to be wildly popular with a lot of kids who will loudly share the grosser elements but they are going to learn a whole lot of solid biology along the way!

A Sporting Chance: from Incurables to Paralympic Champions

Lynn: I’ve seen a T-Shirt recently that proclaims, “I read. I know things.” I like that but what I want is a T-Shirt that says, “I didn’t know that!” I needed to wear that shirt when I read A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic  Games (Houghton, 2020). This truly outstanding book by Lori Alexander made me exclaim this sentiment the entirety of the book! The book is intended for younger readers, Gr. 2-5, and it introduces them to an extraordinary figure, Ludwig Guttmann. I am sorry to say that I knew nothing about Guttmann or his many outstanding contributions or so much more that Alexander so skillfully conveys.

Ludwig Guttmann’s early life was spent in Germany near the Polish border. A variety of experiences led him to become a neurologist and skilled surgeon. But when the Nazis came to power, Guttmann, a Jew, was forbidden to treat non-Jewish patients and then he lost his medical license completely. As conditions worsened for the Jewish people, Guttmann was able to escape to England where he had to begin again to establish himself as a physician. Finally, his deep interest and research in spinal injuries resulted in him establishing a neurology unit and resuming his ground-breaking work.  Again, I had absolutely no idea that spinal injuries were considered un-treatable as late as the end of WWII or that doctors expected patients to die within the year. It is no surprise that 80% of spinal injury patients did just that considering the prevailing appalling beliefs about treatment. Observing the benefits of sports participation for his patients, prompted Guttmann to establish and promote what became the Paralympics. Dr. Guttmann revolutionized understanding and treatment of spinal injury cases and thanks to this book, young readers will come away with a solid grasp of Guttmann’s contributions. They will also gain a real admiration for Guttmann, his perseverance, and the enormous obstacles he had to overcome in his life as well as his impact on the world.

Alexander does an outstanding job of presenting complex and wide-ranging information here for young readers, including scientific and historical background but not bogging down the text. The story is a fascinating one but it is also one with many facets and Alexander manages all of this extremely well. I learned so much from this enjoyable and really inspiring story. Now – where is that T-Shirt????

Cindy: “Incurables.” That’s what spinal injury patients were called. What a journey in the last 80 years and Ludwig Guttmann’s story is fascinating, inspiring, and cautionary. Perseverance and the belief that horrible situations do not have to remain the status quo are characteristics that young readers can learn from as they read this book.

The sometimes tough subject matter and the historical photos are supplemented perfectly for the young audience by Allan Drummond’s illustrations throughout the book. In 2011 we blogged about Energy Island, a book he both wrote and illustrated, and we’ve been fans of his ever since.

The final chapter, “Going for Gold,” features some of the amazing athletes who have won medals at the Paralympic Games.

I was moved to investigate the Paralympic Organization’s website and found this short video that includes Guttmann on their history page. There are more videos and information to be found there, including one about the Stoke Mandeville Hospital and Spinal Treatment Unit.

Books to Nest-le in with: Three Youth Nonfiction Bird Books

Cindy and Lynn: Spring! The birds in our yards are busy building nests and the Canada Geese are already swimming by Cindy’s house with their goslings in tow. Here are some books to read while you watch the nesting activity in your neighborhood.

Lynn: At first glance, Randi Sonenshine’s debut picture book, The Nest that Wren Built (Candlewick, 2020) might be easy to underestimate. Don’t! This lovely book in its brown and cream tones is truly outstanding and, like its small subject, full of surprises and energy.

Sonenshine’s poetic text is in the style of The House That Jack Built and it is a real pleasure to read aloud with a familiar cadence, wonderful word choices, and rhymes that flow naturally with nothing forced. The story is of two Carolina Wrens who build a nest and raise a family and I was so impressed with the amount of information that was incorporated into the story. Wrens are a real favorite of mine and I learned so much. Who knew they decorate their nests with snake skins to scare away flying squirrels intent on robbing the nest? I have observed female wrens dismantling the nests the male built to attract her but I had NO idea that the male builds sometimes as many as 20 “dummy” nests and that after the female makes her choice, the pair re-build the nest together.

Anne Hunter chose a warm soft palette of colors for her ink and pencil illustrations and they are exquisite. Lovely to look at, the drawings are also full of details that reinforce the text. Hunter captures wrens so well with their sassy, bossy fearlessness and the illustrations of the babies just getting ready to fly are adorable.

Excellent back matter includes an illustrated glossary and a page of additional facts about wrens. A perfect choice for a STEM classroom and one that would make a great writing prompt as well.

Cindy: Speaking of STEM classrooms, an early bird nest book from Candlewick that I recently found would pair nicely with Sonenshine’s book. Bird Builds a Nest (2018, 2020pb) written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Richard Jones is a part of Candlewick’s “A First Science Storybook” series. In addition to describing the nest-building process, this one includes information about forces: pushing, pulling, and gravity. The bird pulls a worm from the ground, tries to lift twigs that are too heavy, pushes a twig into one side of the nest, pulls it out a little and pushes it in a different way, and drops twigs to the ground during the building process. Jones’ mixed-media illustrations in bright but natural colors suit the book nicely. Questions to ask children about the forces and an index are included at the back.

For the youngest children, try Curious About Birds (Peachtree, 2019) by Cathryn and John Sill. This board book points out the physical features, behavior, and habitats of birds using a variety of species. Each is featured on a single page that includes a bright watercolor illustration, the fact about the bird, and a bonus, the species name of the bird. That’s often left off in books for the very young. For instance, one spread shows the Rainbow Lorikeet with the caption, “Some birds eat plants,” on one page and an Osprey holding a fish in its claws with the caption, “Some birds eat animals.” The book launches with the familiar Northern Cardinal and American Robin but includes Swallow-tailed Kites, Acorn Woodpeckers, Wood Ducks, Ovenbirds, Snowy Egrets, and other birds less frequently found in books for children. Happy birding!