Book Review: The Spirit of Springer

The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca – Amanda Abler and Levi Hastings (ill) – Little Bigfoot – Published 24 March 2020

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

In 2002, a killer whale calf was discovered swimming alone in Puget Sound. This picture book follows the true story of her identification as a member of the A4 pod, a family of Northern Resident orcas living off the coast of British Columbia, and the team of scientists who worked together against all odds to save her from starvation and reunite her with her family.

The challenges of capturing Springer, transporting her north from Puget Sound to Canadian waters, and coordinating her release to facilitate a hopeful acceptance back into her family are brought to life.

My thoughts

The Spirit of Springer is a delightful story that retells the true events of the rescue and successful release of killer whale calf, Springer. The soft illustrations bring the events of the story to life. It’s a detailed and compelling story.

The writing does a fantastic job of placing the reader directly in the story, and setting the scene. The book is told from the perspective of the humans that interacted with Springer, from the ferry worker who spotter her alone to the scientists who worked to reunite her with her family. While this was a project that drew many people together, this book focuses on the work of Dr David Huff, a veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and Dr Lance Barrett-Lennard, a marine mammal scientist.

The book explains both the media attention Springer received, the concern of the public and the details of her rescue, rehabilitation and release. Built into the story are explanations of scientific terminology, like dialect.

Continue reading

Book Review: Bringing Back the Wolves

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem – Jude Isabella and Kim Smith (ill.) – Kids Can Press – Published 3 March 2020

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

An unintended experiment in Yellowstone National Park, in which an ecosystem is devastated and then remarkably rehabilitated, provides crucial lessons about nature’s intricate balancing act.

In the 1800s, hunters were paid by the American government to eliminate threats to livestock on cattle ranches near Yellowstone National Park. They did such a good job that, by 1926, no gray wolf packs were left in the park. Over the following decades, virtually every other part of the park’s ecosystem was affected by the loss of the wolves — from the animals who were their prey, to the plants that were the food for that prey, to the streams that were sheltered by those plants — and the landscape was in distress. So, starting in 1995, in an attempt to reverse course, the government reintroduced gray wolves to the park. Over time, animal populations stabilized, waterways were restored and a healthy ecosystem was recreated across the land. It’s a striking transformation, and a fascinating tale of life’s complicated interdependencies.

My thoughts

Bringing Back the Wolves – How A Predator Restored An Ecosystem explains about the history of the wolf in the Yellow Stone National Park in the US. From the hunting of wolves in the 1800s and the result this had on the Park to the reintroduction of wolves in 1995, this book explores the impact of an apex predator and how the Park has changed since the wolves have returned.

There is a wonderful sense of nature fixing its self as this book clearly steps out the impact of the wolves. Bringing Back the Wolves does a fantastic job of clearly and simply articulating the complex relationships involved and the intricacies of the impacts.

Continue reading

Book Review: A Galaxy of Sea Stars

A Galaxy of Sea Stars – Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 4 February 2020

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

At a time when everything in her small town of Seaside, Rhode Island, seems like it’s changing, eleven-year-old Izzy Vitale wants things to stay the same. She wants her dad to start acting like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan, she wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live, but most of all, she wants best friends – Piper and Zelda (dubbed the Sea Star Posse by their kindergarten teacher) – to stay best friends as they begin sixth grade at the regional middle school.

Then, Izzy’s father invites his former Army interpreter from Afghanistan and his whole family – including eleven-year-old Sitara — to move into the upstairs apartment at the marina. Izzy doesn’t know what to make of Sitara with her hijab and refusal to eat cafeteria food. She does know that her constant presence has become like a rogue wave disrupting the normally easy flow of the Sea Star Posse. But as Izzy gets to know Sitara, she can’t help but admire her self-confidence and pride in her Muslim faith. Little by little, Izzy begins to realize there exists a world much larger than her safe but insulated harbor in Seaside.

When hate messages start showing up at the girls school and at the marina, Izzy and Sitara team up to discover the source of the vandalism. But what Izzy ultimately learns, will force her to make a choice: remain silent and betray Sitara or speak up for what she knows is right – even if it means losing the Sea Star Posse forever.

My thoughts

A Galaxy of Sea Stars is middle grade fiction at its finest. These young girls are just discovering their independence but with these changes come challenges to long-held friendship, discovering things you never knew, looking at life differently and learning to look past your own experiences to consider the feelings of others.

Izzy and her two best friends are the Sea Stars, best friends since they were little. With a new school to navigate and new classes, Izzy is determined to keep the group together. When Izzy’s father invites the interpreter he worked with in Afghanistan and his family to move in, Izzy is worried. Why isn’t her mother moving back home and what will the Sea Stars say about Sitara, who is Izzy’s age and isn’t scared of standing out or explaining about her beliefs?

Izzy is an authentic young teen. She is struggling to balance what she knows and feels is right with trying desperately to hold onto what is comfortable and known in her life. She is right on the cusp of growing up – sometime sounding like a mature teen and other times reverting back to more childish displays of emotion (and sadly, even as an adult I could totally relate to these meltdowns). Growing up is hard, especially when navigating changes in schools, friendship and family circumstances. It’s something so many young people face today, especially family breakdown. Izzy wants her family to go back to the way it was and doesn’t understand why her mother can’t just come home. She also struggles to come to terms with the changes she has seen in her father since he has come back from serving in Afghanistan. These two points aren’t explored in too much depth, the focus of the story remains on other things, but Izzy does come to accept her mother’s choice, she loves and accepts her fathers, and her parents work harder at explaining things to Izzy and making her more comfortable with the new living arrangements.

Continue reading

Book Review: Love From the Crayons

Love From The Crayons – Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (ill.) – Penguin Workshop – Published 24 December 2019

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Love is yellow and orange. Because love is sunny and warm. Love is purple. Because it’s okay to love outside the lines.

My thoughts

From the creators of The Day The Crayons Quit and The Day The Crayons Came Home, comes a new title that features the same band of loveable crayons with a simple story about love.

Love From The Crayons is not as detailed or complex a story as the first two books. Rather, it is a simple book, with one or two lines of text per page that follows the same pattern “Love is brown…because sometimes love stinks”, starring the ironic crayons and matching crayon drawings.

Continue reading

Book Review: Atlas of Ocean Adventures

Atlas of Ocean Adventures: A Collection of Natural Wonders, Marine Marvels and Undersea Antics from Across the Globe – Emily Hawkins and Lucy Letherland (illustrator) – Wide Eyed Editions – Published 5 November 2019

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Set your spirit of adventure free with this journey to the world’s great oceans, discovering the diversity of life that exists in the deep blue sea. Whether you’re travelling long haul with leatherback turtles across the Pacific, snoozing with sea otters or ice bathing with a walrus, this book celebrates the very prescient topic of the world’s oceans with Lucy Letherland’s animal characters. A natural history lesson in an adventure book, each spread features 10 captions and and facts about every destination.

My thoughts

The Atlas Of Ocean Adventures is the fifth of the Atlas of Adventure titles. This book focuses on the wonders of the sea, from Great White Sharks in the waters of South Africa to Walrus from Svalbard. Beautifully illustrated in soft colours, this book will entrance readers.

The Atlas of Ocean Adventures is divided into five sections: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean and Arctic Ocean. This is obviously not a comprehensive atlas, as only 32 animals are featured, but there is a nice range, including fish species, marine birds, and larger mammals. Each featured animal is given a double-page spread. With a full-colour illustration that provides the backdrop for the page, the information about the animal, usually an interesting point about its habitat or lifestyle is provided in a small paragraph and then added points are spread across the page. Also included are maps that show the locations of the animals.

Continue reading

Book Review: Dear Sweet Pea

Dear Sweet Pea – Julie Murphy – Balzer+Bray – Published 1 October 2019

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

My thoughts

Dear Sweet Pea is the middle-grade debut from successful YA author Julie Murphy. Dear Sweet Pea is a delightful story about growing up, figuring your way through friendships, facing challenging family changes like divorce and the coming out of a parent, and finding your voice in the progression from middle school to high school.

When Sweet Pea’s parents announce their divorce and promise her nothing will change she didn’t expect them to set up nearly identical houses for her on the same street. The only thing between them is the house of Miss Flora Mae, who writes the local advice columns. When Miss Flora Mae goes away on a trip, she asks Sweet Pea to forward her letters to her, but Sweet Pea is drawn to the mystery of the letters and finds herself opening and responding to them herself.

Continue reading

Book Review: If I Built A School

If I Built A School – Chris Van Dusen – If I Built #3 – Dial Books – Published 13 August 2019

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

If Jack built a school, there would be hover desks and pop-up textbooks, skydiving wind tunnels and a trampoline basketball court in the gym, a robo-chef to serve lunch in the cafeteria, field trips to Mars, and a whole lot more. The inventive boy who described his ideal car and house in previous books is dreaming even bigger this time.

My thoughts

If I Built A School is Chris Van Dusen’s third If I Built… picture book. Brilliantly coloured spreads full of wonderful imaginings provide the perfect leaping off point to spark children’s own creativity. If I Built A School is more like If I Built a fun park. From glass tube travel ports and spaceships to holograms and water slides, Jack’s school design is wild and heaps of fun.

While the inclusions in Jack’s school are perhaps not exactly surprising, it is the leap of creativity and the passing of design over to the child that I really like. As Jack tours his teacher around the school, introducing her to his plans and reasoning behind them, even sometimes admitting that he doesn’t yet have all the details on how something might actually work, it is the creativity that is passed into his hands and his teacher’s looks of wonder that I most appreciate (especially her considered look at the existing brick school box at the close of the book).

There is so much that one could do with children after reading this book. Having children design their own school is just one simple activity. Working with DIY holograms is an easy tech-related activity, while in-depth discussion, for example, about Jack’s decision to have animals sequestered into small enclosures just inside the entrance of his school could spark much-needed conversation about the relationship between animals and humans.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Way To Treasure Island

The Way To Treasure Island – Lizzy Stewart – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books – Published 6 June 2019

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Matilda and her dad are very different. Matilda is fast and Dad is slow. Matilda is tidy and Dad is messy, and Matilda is quiet and Dad is very, very loud. They’re off to find treasure, but Dad keeps getting distracted. Soon, they’re lost and Matilda is getting crosser and crosser… 

Will they ever find the way to treasure island?

My thoughts

The Way To Treasure Island is a bright and colourful picture book about accepting differences in personalities and enjoying the company of family. It is an adventure story full of wonder and unexpected discoveries.

Matilda is neat, quiet and likes to follow instructions. Matilda’s dad is messy, noisy, often distracted and makes things up as he goes. They love to spend time together, even through they are very different. When Matilda and her dad set out on a treasure hunt, Matilda wants to follow her map, while her dad gets them lost and keeps getting distracted. Matilda’s not sure they’ll ever find the treasure. But as they journey, Matilda and her dad will find they can learn a lot from each other.

Continue reading

Book Review: Summer of a Thousand Pies

Summer of a Thousand Pies – Margaret Dilloway – Balzer+Bray – Published 16 April 2019

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

When twelve-year-old Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she doesn’t know what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, or even living inside, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad.

Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs. Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s pie shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she’s learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix?

My thoughts

Summer of a Thousand Pies is a sweet middle-grade contemporary novel. A story about family and belonging, set amongst the backdrop of food, glorious food, Summer of a Thousand Pies touches on some deep and troubling themes such as homelessness, financial hardship, and the constant fear and struggle to belong faced by illegal immigrants. With diverse characters and a strong -if a little too headstrong at times- lead characters, Summer of a Thousand Pies is sure to delight young readers.

Continue reading

Book Review: Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking – Isabel Sanchez Vegara and lllustrated by Matt Hunt – Little People Big Dreams – Lincoln Children’s Books – Published 5 February 2019

♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

When Stephen Hawking was a little boy, he used to stare up at the stars and wonder about the universe. Although he was never top of the class, his curiosity took him to the best universities in England: Oxford and Cambridge. It also led him to make one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the 20th century: Hawking radiation. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the brilliant physicist’s life.

My thoughts

I have heard great things about the Little People, Big Dreams series, so I was eager to read this instalment which features the great scientist Stephen Hawking.

Continue reading