Duck on a Tractor by Rod Dreher, David Shannon (The Blue Sky Press, 2016. Ages 4-8)
On the farm, inquisitive and adventurous Duck sometimes got wild ideas. He had ridden a bike, so why not drive the tractor?
So, Duck does. At his prompting, all the animals, one by one, jump on board. Soon they hurtle through town past the diner to the amazement of all the customers. One of them, Farmer O’Dell, notices that it’s his tractor transporting the barnyard crew, so he gives chase and the other customers follow.
When the tractor turns a corner and runs out of gas, the animals leap off and run back to the barnyard. A few minutes later, Farmer O’Dell and the others turn the corner and discover the stranded tractor. They all agree that they were seeing things – except for a child with a camera who knows better.
Comical, energetic illustrations of people and animals combined with amusing commentary on the animals’ thoughts are sure to make this book a delightful and entertaining experience for young children. by Rod Dreher, David Shannon (The Blue Sky Press, 2016. Ages 4-8)
The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock. Illustrated by Sophie Casson (Owlkids Books, 2016. Ages 5-9)
In this fictional picture book, an old man reflects on his life as a child in 1888 Arles in southern France when he and other children taunted and bullied a man with wild red hair who painted vivid canvases of flowers, streets and starry skies. Echoing the taunts of adults, the children tormented Vincent van Gogh, spreading ugliness with every hateful word and act.
Once when the boy was alone and unobserved, he had a chance to look at one of van Gogh’s painting and felt a sense of curiosity and wonder. But still he joined the public mockery of the artist who saw his mission as the pursuit of truth.
One day when the boy chased a rabbit into a wheat field, he stumbled unnoticed upon van Gogh at his easel. The boy's eyes were opened and “for an instant the world was bigger and brighter than it had ever been.” When van Gogh turned and saw the boy, he offered him the painting. But, terrified, the boy fled.
Years later, the boy, now an old man, visits a Paris museum with his grandson and sees the painting – the one he had refused – being displayed. He sadly reflects on the role he played in van Gogh's suffering.
Brightly-coloured illustrations reminiscent of van Gogh’s artwork offset the somber, yet hopeful message of The Artist and Me – namely, that van Gogh pursued his calling and mission as an artist no matter the obstacles he faced and that bullying is “a waste of time” when a person could be pursuing his or her own mission and calling.
Parachute by Danny Parker. Illustrated by Matt Ottley (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2016. Ages 4-8)
Young Toby always wears a parachute because it makes him feel safe when he climbs out of bed or off a stool, rides a bike, swings and slides on the playground equipment, or faces situations that might prove to be hazardous. From Toby's perspective, the world can be a dangerous place.
One day, Toby’s cat, Henry, climbs a rope ladder to a tree house. Toby, afraid, yet summoning his courage, climbs the ladder. He places Henry in the parachute and the cat floats safely to the ground. Now, still way up in the tree house, Toby is alone and scared. But he takes one step, then another, and makes his way down the ladder.
Changed by his act of bravery, Toby needs his parachute less and less, till one day he leaves it behind.
Young children will be able to relate to Toby's fears and triumphs in this simple tale enhanced by whimsical, vivid illustrations.
Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs by Linda Vander Heyden. Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen (Sleeping Bear Press, 2016. Ages 6-9)
When Mr. McGinty goes for walks with his dog, Sophie, he loves to watch the monarch butterflies. One day, he's dismayed when he sees that the milkweed plants on which the monarch butterflies had been laying their eggs had been mown down. He examines the stems and sees monarch caterpillars clinging to them.
Mr. McGinty and Sophie set out on a “monarch mission.” While Sophie watches the old man collect caterpillars, he tells her about monarch butterflies. Back at home, he places the caterpillars and all that they need to survive in numerous aquariums that he has purchased. Soon he is overwhelmed with the workload. But he comes up with an innovative idea and enlists the help of children at a local school.
When the monarchs have matured and are strong enough to fly, Mr. McGinty and the children release them into the early autumn sky.
Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs teaches children about the life cycle of monarch butterflies, while at the same time introducing them to (fictional) children and adults who try to ensure their viability.
Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon Erik Lappano. Illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka (Groundwood Books, 2016. Ages 3-7)
Tokyo lives in a small house wedged between a city’s skyscrapers. His grandfather, who lives with Tokyo and his parents, has lived in the house since he was a child. At that time, no city existed, only forests, meadows, streams and wild animals.
One spring day, an old woman bikes down the city street pulling an old cart filled with dirt. She stops and hands Tokyo three seeds, then tells him to plant them. She promises that they will grow into whatever he wishes.
Tokyo does just that. And the results are both magical and majestic! Within days, the city is a garden where trees, streams, flowers and wild creatures make their home among businesses and buildings.
When Grandfather worries that the garden is much too big, Tokyo answers wisely, “I think that we will just have to get used to it.”
Tokyo Digs a Garden playfully and imaginatively invites children to appreciate the environment and, perhaps, to think of ways they can take care of it.
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