When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novels A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, in which a girl is whisked from darkest India to a very different environment in England, usually in the wake of a family tragedy. As captivating as those novels were to my preteen self, what was always missing was a real portrait, not just a glimpse, of what the heroine’s life was like in the exotic place from which she came. Katherine Rundell’s Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms does exactly that.
Lots of scientists—Newton, Salk, Galileo—changed the world. Now Ellie’s grandfather Melvin might be on the same track. But is that a good thing?
Eight-year-old Aref loves nature, making lists, his family, his grandfather Sidi and his home in Muscat, Oman. When his parents decide to finish their doctorates in Michigan, Aref refuses to embrace the move. The important things—school, friends, his grandfather, the sea turtle beach—do not fit in Aref’s suitcase, and he finds himself getting in his mother’s way while sinking into sadness. Underneath his sadness is fear: Will Sidi be here in three years when Aref returns? Will Aref remember Muscat?
Budding young naturalists will learn from—and love—Winter Is Coming by Tony Johnston. A quietly powerful picture book that explores the changing of the seasons and life in the woods, it’s also a story about the rewards that come from taking time to look closely at the world. The narrator is a resourceful young girl who visits her tree house each day, watching in solitude as the forest around her transitions from fall to winter. Armed with binoculars, sketchbook and pencils, she spies on animals as they hunt for food and prepare for the snowy season to come.
Most children’s stories that feature animals as main characters tend to be highly anthropomorphic. From “The Three Little Pigs” to The Incredible Journey, animals stand in for humans, right down to living in houses and sitting in chairs. Not so in Nuts to You, the latest from Newbery-winning author Lynne Rae Perkins. The squirrels in this story behave as squirrels, and their story is very interesting.
The title of Diane and Christyan Fox’s clever new picture book, The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma is quite a mouthful. Add impish characters that nearly fly across the page, and humor clearly awaits.
These days it seems dogs are everywhere. We have dog detectives (Spencer Quinn’s delightful Chet and Bernie mystery series for adults), lost dogs (Chris Raschka’s Caldecott-winning A Ball for Daisy) and even, apparently, dogs with blogs. So, do kids (and adults) need another dog book? The answer, as any dog lover will tell you, is a resounding yes, especially when the book is created by the talented David Ezra Stein, who won a Caldecott Honor for Interrupting Chicken.
Size matters. Or does it? And aren’t things like “big” and “small” relative concepts anyway? You bet they are, as husband-and-wife author-illustrator team Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant make clear in their debut children’s book, the spare and thought-provoking You Are (Not) Small.
Abigail (don’t call her “Abby”) is so excited about starting sixth grade, she has to make lists just to calm herself down. She’s ready to rule the school with best friends Alli and Cami and their wicked pom pom choreography when disaster strikes three times over: Abigail ends up in a different homeroom than her friends; she doesn’t make the pom squad; and her homeroom teacher pairs her with wildly unpopular Gabby Marco for a year-long letter writing assignment. Always, Abigail is a story of friendship found in unexpected places, and the cost of kindness versus popularity.
Benjamin Epstein loves “sweeping,” or applying to sweepstakes. He’s especially excited about the competition to write a new slogan for Royal-T Bathroom Tissue. Winning the contest would provide enough money for Benjamin and his mother to avoid eviction from their small Philadelphia apartment without giving up on the Grand Plan his father designed before dying of lung cancer: Benjamin’s mother will finish her accounting degree, get a good job, and she and Benjamin will have a better life.