Sunday, November 21, 2021

Janet Halfmann's New Picture Books Share Nature Stories and Facts


Janet Halfmann knows how to write a good children's story and add in some fun facts, too. She's had a big year promoting three new picture books! If you have young people in your life, you will want to consider these.

Who Is Singing? written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Chrissy Chabot was released in July by Pen It! Publications. When I open the door in the morning, I love to hear the birds sing. I can identify some of their songs, but not all. Janet has "translated" the bird songs into words or syllables, asking with each one, "Who is singing?" The answers begin with, "Take a bow" and identify the bird. Robins, cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, and other common birds are featured. Readers and their young audiences will have fun imitating the various bird sounds, and maybe making up their own bird calls. Kids' nature walks will have more meaning when they can recognize the sounds they hear. Chabot's simple, colorful illustrations also help with bird recognition. The last page of the book includes fun facts and a suggested activity. 

Yay for Big Brothers! by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Shennen Bersani was published by Arbordale Publishing in November. This book is perfect for a family that includes a big brother, but also works for big sisters and animal lovers, too. Big brothers are often heroes to their younger siblings, and Janet and Shennen show that the same is true in the animal kingdom. Readers will see how animal big brothers near and far--African wild dogs, beavers, chimpanzees, crows, dolphins, hoary
marmots, kangaroos, meerkats, naked mole rats, tamarins, and wolves--help their families. For example, Big Brother Crow helps feed his younger siblings. Big Brother Tamarin carries his younger siblings through the trees. Shennen's expertise in science illustration for young people gives accurate illustrations of each animal family. Each spread asks a question relating readers to the topic. For example, for the tamarinds, the question is "How does your little one get around?" "For Creative Minds" at the end of the book includes a glossary and interesting facts, and more facts and activities are found on the publisher's website. This book gives readers and their young audiences a chance to learn and marvel at nature together! 

Caterpillar's Surprise by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Emily Krueger will be released by Black Rose Writing in early December. Gentle humor, embedded poems, characters to root for, and a compelling story centered around an animal masquerade ball make this tale a winner. Emily's detailed illustrations set the scene and show creatures' emotions and transformations. What a fun way to see the different stages of animal development and the value of friendship!

I received a free digital copy of each of these books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Charles is right--Love really IS everything!


When you look around, what do you see? Sometimes I see chores that must be done, a yard that must be tended, a bill to be paid. But I have learned from poet and picture book author Charles Ghigna (aka Father Goose)’s latest book LOVE is Everything (published by Schiffer Kids) that “Music, silence, mountains, summer, LOVE is everywhere!”

This beautiful book shows an older bear showing a younger bear the wonders of the world, looking through the lens of love.  Jacqueline East’s soft illustrations give a warm, cozy feel as Ghigna’s rhyming text takes us through the seasons, the arts, and the interactions with each other that make life so wonderful.  “I believe in daydreams/and wishes that come true. I believe in everything./I believe in you” is the perfect ending to this affirming picture book.

This is a great cuddle-at-bedtime book and just the right tonic to help someone feel better after a bad day. It’s a confidence builder when someone has failed or is afraid, and a mindfulness giver when someone feels frantic or overwhelmed. This book is a great book for all ages, to be read with someone they love.

Thanks to Charles Ghigna for the digital copy! This book, like so many other books and supplies, has been on hold through this unusual time, and is now expected to be released in November.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Weather Detectives on the Case!


    "Maybe those sounds were to blame.
    "Maybe that's why Henry felt like throwing up."

Well, what kid wouldn't want to keep reading? The title alone intrigued me, and as I type this, thunder rumbles and rain falls, while hurricanes and tropical storms hit the coasts. 

Who or what are Weather Detectives? Henry Alabaster is the 13-year-old nephew of Kelvin McCloud, who specializes in solving cases involving weather. He's even written a book about it, chapters of which are interspersed in the text of this book. Henry proves an able assistant, as the two meet friends--and strangers--aboard a clipper cruise ship that has suffered from enough strange sights and sounds to hurt business. Hired by a crew member and friend of the captain, Kelvin and Henry set out to see what's behind the eerie phenomena. Kelvin, Henry and his friend, Rachel, keep their eyes and ears open, develop their suspect list, and ask questions. Many unexplainable occurrences put everyone aboard on edge. As more evidence comes forward and the ship steers into a hurricane, Henry suggests a plan based on his knowledge of thunder and lightning. Leaving Henry behind for safety reasons, Kelvin closes in on the guilty. 

Kelvin is also Henry's guardian following the deaths of Henry's parents, and in the course of the story, Henry grows closer to Kelvin--and Rachel--and realizes he has a family and a future, after all.

The lively writing and robust vocabulary will appeal to young readers, and they will learn a bit about weather in the process.

The Weather Detectives by Michael Erb, published this July by Tumblehome Books, is written for kids aged 9-12. I enjoyed this book as an Advanced Reader Copy pdf provided by the author. This is Erb's second book featuring Kelvin, and I hope there are more! I could imagine this being made into a TV show because the characters and situations are so singular.

Erb is himself holds a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from Rutgers, so he knows his weather! From his author bio: "Currently, he is an Assistant Research Professor at Northern Arizona University, where he helps uncover clues about Earth's past climate. As a scientist and author, he confronts mysteries both in his research and in fascinating books." 


Sunday, May 16, 2021

Happy National Love a Tree Day!



Happy National Love a Tree Day! Who knew? I love trees every day, and even more so since I read The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom written and illustrated by Lita Judge.

Each beautiful spread, with carefully detailed illustrations, contains a poem about trees on the left side, and information about tree communities' ability to communicate, warn, and protect each other on the right. An author's note tells how this fascination for trees took root, and back matter fills in more details about tree communities. 

Scientists have learned a lot about tree behavior recently, and it is amazing! For example, in "Neighbor, Can You Hear Me?" the poem is a tree calling out to its neighbors. The factual information tells us that when insects attack a tree, the tree sends electrical signals through the fungi living among the tree's roots. When other trees receive the warning, they "pump a bitter-tasting chemical called tannin into their leaves to ward off the insects" (p. 11). 

Enjoy this short video about how the book was made and see its beauty for yourself.

Through the seasons and around the world, Judge shows and tells us how trees take care of each other. We could learn a lot from trees!

          See more about Lita Judge's award-winning books here.  




Monday, February 15, 2021

The Clothesline Code: Celebrating Valentine's Day and Black History Month

I can't think of a better way to celebrate Valentine's Day (well, let's make it a week, shall we?) and Black History Month (let's make that year 'round, shall we?) than to introduce you to award-winning author, Janet Halfmann's, newest book, The Clothesline Code, released February 1.

From the back cover: "Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker didn’t have to risk their lives to spy for the Union army. The couple had already risked everything to escape slavery themselves."

This is a true story of a loving black couple, Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker, who found a unique and daring way to help the Union during the Civil War. Dabney was assigned to an intelligence unit in the Union Army. Lucy Ann was a camp laundress. As formerly enslaved people, neither had been allowed to learn to read or write. How could they sneak behind enemy lines and set up a system for communicating what the Confederates were up to? The clothesline code was born. 

Lucy Ann was the one who would go into enemy territory, learn Confederate secrets, and send them to Dabney, who would look at the clothesline and decode the message. Should they be found out, both of their lives were in danger. Suspense builds as the Walkers send messages back and forth. Readers feel Dabney's distress on days when messages don't come. Was Lucy Ann ok? Would their plan succeed?

The Walkers' determination to help defeat slavery demonstrates the power we all have in using everyday items, courage, and caring to change the world.

Halfmann's vivid writing and Trisha Mason's emotive illustrations bring these little-known heroes to life, engaging youth and adults. Halfmann says that she "strives to make her books come alive for young readers and listeners," and this book proves that she does. 

Find out more about Halfmann and her books here. Find out more about Mason and her art here.

I like Halfmann's writing so much that I have written about her work before here and here.

Halfmann proudly displays The Clothesline Code.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year! and Some Un-resolutions for Joyful Living


Happy New Year! For those unfamiliar with northern winter climates, I'll tell you that the image above is snow. This snow is not new, yet has no tracks or marks on it, and it serves as an analogy for the new year. This snow fell last year and remains, just as parts of 2020 remain with us into 2021. But what remains has not marked this snow. Here it is, crisp and untouched. What can we make of it? It's ours to decide. What can we make of our new year? At the end of 2021, will we be glad of the tracks we've made? 

A new year presents challenges and responsibilities. A turn of a calendar page is not magic. I'm sure I'm not alone in making and breaking resolutions year after year. This year, I realized that the things I usually resolved to do felt more like punishment. So I'm going to make some un-resolutions that I can actually keep that will increase my joy. My list is in progress and subject to change, but here are a few items:

Eat a bite of chocolate every day.

Listen more to music.

Read more, generally, and read more poetry, specifically.

Look at--really look at--works of art.

No, these are not SMART goals. These are just life-enriching things that often get pushed aside in daily busyness. How will you add more joy this year? What tracks will you leave in 2021?

"...Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings...." is from the incredible poem by Maya Angelou,"On The Pulse of Morning," written for and delivered at President Clinton's inauguration in 1993. Here is the entire poem: