Children’s Book News: May-June 2023

With warmer weather, children’s attention turns to the wonders of nature as the outside world wakes up. We are reminded of the miracles and beauty of new life as well as our connection to it. The following books are testaments to both.

Wildoak by C. C. Harrington

Suggested ages: 9-12 years

Wildoak is a beautifully narrated story of the interdependence of all forms of life – human, fauna, and flora. Harrington weaves her tale using the alternating voices of Maggie, who must cope with a stutter and finds school often unbearable, and a young snow leopard, Rufus, sold as an exotic pet and now escaped from captivity. Maggie’s father has threatened to send her to Granville for treatment, about which she has heard frightening rumors, but her mother insists on an alternative. She suggests Maggie spend several weeks with her grandfather, a doctor, who lives in the country surrounded by the woods of Wildoak.

Here Maggie discovers a new world as she explores the forest and senses the connection between all living things. When she investigates an ancient oak – its hollowed-out trunk, its spreading branches – she feels an energy that speaks to her. “Be gentle with yourself. It is hard to be human.” This new awareness brings to Maggie a sense of purpose and drive. When she encounters the snow leopard cub, scared and bewildered in its new environment, Maggie discerns a bond between the two of them. Soon Maggie finds herself a determined advocate, not only for Rufus but for Wildoak, which is threatened by impending development. The book, Wildoak, is filled with beauty and hope – a very special read.

The Author’s Note at the book’s end includes valuable material on trees and reforestation efforts, on the reality of the sale of big cats and their conservation, and on stuttering, along with resources for young people who stutter.

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes

Suggested ages: 3-8 years

Swirl by Swirl is truly an elegantly created book. From Krommes’ intricately detailed scratchboard art to Sidman’s lyrical text, it is a reading experience that must be shared. It awakens in both child and adult the many forms the spiral shape takes in nature. The pictures and text also reflect the important functions of this special shape. Art and science are engagingly intertwined. Each animal and flower are labeled throughout, and the back notes add more detailed information that supports the spiral shape’s roll in nature. The notes conclude with a brief explanation of the Fibonacci sequence. Swirl by Swirl is a reading experience for a variety of ages.

All Around Us written by Xelena Gonzalez and illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia

Suggested ages: 4-7 years

Pura Belpré Honor Book

All Around Us also focuses on one of nature’s shapes – the circle. A young girl shares the outdoors with her grandpa who points out the many circles all about them. But he goes beyond the physical circles in nature as he speaks of the circles of life. The two plant a garden together. Later they return the stems, leaves, and seeds to the earth. They walk over to the tree that was planted when the young girl was born. Here the grandpa shares a circle of life tradition that is often practiced by the Navajos of our country and the Maori of New Zealand.

The beautifully composed art work shines with glowing curvatures. All Around Us is a book that adult and child can easily extend as they share their own observations of the world about them and discover their personal circles of life.