My Friend Earth

My Friend Earth
Patricia MacLaughlan and Francesca Sanna
Chronicle Children’s Books

The combined talents of award winning writer Patricia MacLaughlan and illustrator Francesca Sanna have created a wonderfully inspiring celebration of Mother Earth.

Through Patricia’s lyrical text, seemingly spoken by a child narrator, and Francesca’s beautiful, boldly coloured scenes with their intricate layered die-cuts, youngsters are invited to share in and savour nature and its beauty.
The message is soft-spoken yet its subtle gentleness wields a power that will definitely inspire children as they savour the changing seasons, starting with Earth waking from its winter nap roused by the sounds of spring – the farmer at work in the garden, the bird song.

Not just the sounds though, the sights – of a ‘silent seed, / the spider spinning silver, / the robin and the wrens.’;

and larger creatures too – an albatross on the wing, a tunnelling mole. She gently guides animals to their sleeping places and to their mothers.

There’s such beauty in the landscapes too, be they grassy prairies, icy arctic;

beneath the sea.

Each one is affected by the elements – the heavy rains; the fierce autumn winds; the soft, silent whispers of snow as it blankets ‘… my friend Earth’ with its flora and fauna waiting for the arrival of the sun that heralds spring once more.

There’s beauty too, and tenderness, in Patricia’s alliterations: ‘the baby black bears are born in soft darkness’

though every sentence, every phrase, is a joy to read.

Francesca’s art is a perfect complement for the text – those enticing die-cuts set into her lovingly portrayed scenes of nature, helping to create at every page turn, a time to savour the sights and sounds of the natural world.

Yes Earth is our friend but most important, we all need to be Earth’s friends – before it’s too late.

You might want to use this wonderful book to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (22nd April) with its theme of climate change. In the meantime buy it, share it, give it.

My Tree and Me

My Tree and Me
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed

This latest title in team Witek and Roussey’s In My Heart series presents the seasons through the eyes of the little girl narrator as she introduces her tall, more than 100 year old friend with ‘birds in his hair’ that she calls My Tree.

It’s with this understanding, non-judgemental tree that she shares the ups and downs of her life as well as using him as a partner for singing and dancing.

We learn of how the different seasons affect how she feels and what she does in relation to her friend; ‘With My Tree, I feel like I can fly’ she says of spring …

In summer said tree is a place under which to picnic, becoming a big house for all her animal friends as well as a static participant in a game of hide-and-seek.

Bare-branched and all a-tremble in winter, My Tree is kept warm by the child’s scarf and her fast jumping upon his ‘frozen feet’ – (strangely out of seasonal sequence this).

Said tree also has magical transformational powers, bestowing some on our narrator as she mixes a potion of earthworms, mouldy chestnuts and decaying leaves.

Come autumn My Tree’s branches with their colour changing leaves, provide umbrella-like protection from the sun’s rays.

No matter the season, My Tree, we’re told, smells good: in summer it’s with fruit and honey; moss and mushrooms signify autumn, peppermint is winter’s smell and fresh lime is his springtime one.

For My Tree, it’s easy to stay rooted to the spot but when the little girl tries a yoga tree pose, she finds balancing without wobbling something of a challenge …

both of the friends though, exhibit seasonal growth.

Like previous titles in the series, this has thick die cut pages; and Christine Roussey’s characteristic adorable ink-drawn narrator as well as inky aspects of My Tree, the rest of which is portrayed in colours appropriate to the season.

Celebrating the wonders of the natural world, this is another winning combination of words and pictures from the series’ collaborators.

Emmett and Caleb

Emmett and Caleb
Karen Hottois and Delphine Renon
Book Island

Emmett and Caleb are neighbours and good friends. Despite having totally different morning rituals, they manage to spend much of their time together going for walks and enjoying nature.

Come summer late riser Caleb is unusually, awake early and he wants to give his pal a present to celebrate their long-standing friendship. Having pondered hard, he decides to write Emmett a poem: ‘Emmett, you look handsome in your hat and you’re not fat.’ and give it to him after they’ve consumed their meal. This however, doesn’t quite go as well as he hopes: Emmett focuses on the superficial errors rather than the content of the message and so finds Caleb’s effort funny, which upsets the writer who snatches back his work, taking drastic action.

Emmett ponders, gently admonishes himself and decides to make recompense. By sunset the two are reconciled

Autumn brings forest walks, damp earth and the harvesting of nature’s bounties – a truly golden time for the pair.

Then in the winter it’s time to celebrate Caleb’s birthday with a party, presents, a special cake and dancing;

it even snows as midnight strikes.

This celebration of friendship, life’s simple pleasures and the gifts of nature, translated from the author’s original French by Sarah Ardizzone, is enchanting. In her illustrations, Delphine Renon beautifully captures the warmth between the two characters as well as the inherent beauty of each season.

A quirky delight to read aloud or equally, a lovely book for those just taking off as independent readers.

The Squirrels’ Busy Year

The Squirrels’ Busy Year
Martin Jenkins and Richard Jones
Walker Books

From the creators of Fox in the Night is a new addition to the Science Storybook series, this time about the seasons and changes in the weather.

We start in winter and just like today when I’m writing this, it’s very cold, the pond is frozen and snow covers the ground. The animals are tucked away in warm places until they have to go out and search for food.

Spring brings warmer weather with bird song, croaking frogs, scampering squirrels hoping to find juicy maple buds on the trees or bulbs they can unearth; but they’ll have to be quick for there’s an owl on the prowl.
With the summer come hotter days, the need for shade, and longer hours of daylight with a chance of thundery weather.

Come autumn and the frogs have gone to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud;

many birds have flown to warmer climes and the squirrels start collecting for their winter store in preparation for hibernating.
All this is presented through an engaging, at times poetic, text, together with some basic scientific facts, and in Richard Jones’ textured illustrations.
His beautifully crafted scenes work in perfect harmony with Jenkins’ descriptions, his colour palette mirroring the seasonal hues superbly.
Look how perfectly this embodies the hushed arrival of winter’s snow …

A fine example of non-fiction for the very young.

Nature Within, Nature Without

A First Book of Nature
Nicola Davies and Mark Hearld
Walker Books pbk
The “Rrrrruurrrrp. Rrrrruuurp. Rrrrruuup.” of frogs in the pond, the making of compost,

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the sunlight shining through the raindrops in spring; the summertime buzzing of bees in the sleepy sunshine and the trickling tide creeping into rockpools; the floating, swirling leaves of autumn and the silver sea of spiderlings;

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the naked winter trees and the show of stars on a cold night: all these and much, much more can be found in this truly stunning, lyrical book. So accurately does it capture the experiences – visual and aural – of a child’s journey through and interactions with  the seasons, be they in the city, countryside or by the sea that it makes the reader – this one certainly – see, hear and smell those experiences too.

Without a sound the flowers call out.
They shout to insects with their colours, …
Just here is where you’ll
Find the nectar.’

Here, Nicola Davies, (also a zoologist) makes us use our ears to experience, what we usually see.

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Mark Hearld uses a variety of materials and techniques in the illustrations making every page a joy to behold. His ‘Nesting’ has real straw pieces both in the beak of the bird and the nest she’s constructing, and the birds’ plumage is made up of a variety of printed papers;

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beautifully child-like in keeping with the book as whole experience and in its seeming simplicity, not unlike things I’ve watched young children create.
So, read the book, buy the book, share the book,

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give the book; do all of these but most importantly, go outside, preferably with children (or as a child) and LOOK, LISTEN and SMELL the natural world in all its glory. DISCOVER ANEW and WONDER …
There’s a veritable goldmine waiting to be found both within these pages and without …

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