The Witness Trees: Historic Moments and the Trees Who Watch Them Happen Author: Ryan G. Van Cleave
Illustrator: Ððm Ððm
Publishing May 9th, 2023 by Bushel & Peck Books
Summary: For generations, trees have silently witnessed history’s most pivotal moments. Here are their stories.
In the sweep of wind over grass,
near the pulse of rivers,
monuments of bark
and age-curled green.
Above, an avalanche of stars.
Below, the ocean of earth.
Within, the uncounted lives
birthed, bloomed, and plucked
from the gardens we tend.
In evocative verse and stunning artwork, Witness Trees is the story of the world’s most enduring witnesses: the trees. From the Flower of Kent apple tree still standing in Sir Isaac Newton’s yard, to the English oak given to Jesse Owens after facing down Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to the California redwood saved from destruction by July Butterfly Hill, to the Callery pear tree still miraculously alive after the World Trade Towers fell, Witness Trees is a moving tribute to the world’s most famous trees, many of which still need humanity’s protection. Be moved, be inspired, be amazed by the quiet, reverberating voices of nature’s sentinels: the witness trees.
For each tree depicted, there is information about that tree and the events it witnessed. Among the trees lovingly discussed are 20 trees you can visit today.
About the Creators:
Ryan G. Van Cleave wrote his first poem at age five, and he’s been writing, reading, and loving poetry ever since. He earned a Ph.D. in American Literature with an emphasis in poetry and has taught at numerous colleges and universities. Currently, he runs the creative writing major at Ringling College of Art and Design. As The Picture Book Whisperer, he helps celebrities and high-profile clients write picture books and kidlit projects. Visit his blog at https://www.onlypicturebooks.com/.
Ððm Ððm is an illustrator who uses his art to sow seeds of joy. He has illustrated multiple books and lives in Vietnam.
Review:This book is intriguing and beautiful. First, the verse is very well written. It is lyrical and beautiful–it will lend its self so well to reading aloud. Second, the art is superb! It is realistic, colorful, eye catching, and breathtaking! Third, the idea of this book is just so fascinating. I, obviously, knew trees had been around much longer than most of us could imagine, but to see the timeline included in the book and all of the history included within just blew my mind.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be amazing to take each of the Witness Trees and let a group of students learn more about the historical event as well as the tree that witnessed it. Each group could then present to the class. (Please note that many of the events are tragic, so choose the events and students for each wisely.)
Also, at the beginning of the book, the author includes some trees that aren’t included in the book, so students could take each of these books and create their own spreads with a poem about the tree based in its history.
How does the author’s choice of verse affect the tone of the book?
How did the illustrators structure of putting the tree on one side of a spread and an illustration related to the history on the other side add to the history shared?
What makes trees so amazing? What about these trees specifically?
What time in history do you wonder if there is a Witness Tree for it? (Extension: Have students research and see if there is one.)
Read This If You Love: History, Interest in trees, Picture books in verse
**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**
The Manifestor Prophecy Author: Angie Thomas
Published April 4th, 2023 by Blazer + Bray
Summary: Internationally bestselling superstar author Angie Thomas makes her middle grade debut with the launch of an inventive, hilarious, and suspenseful new contemporary fantasy trilogy inspired by African American history and folklore.
It’s not easy being a Remarkable in the Unremarkable world. Some things are cool—like getting a pet hellhound for your twelfth birthday. Others, not so much—like not being trusted to learn magic because you might use it to take revenge on an annoying neighbor.
All Nic Blake wants is to be a powerful Manifestor like her dad. But before she has a chance to convince him to teach her the gift, a series of shocking revelations and terrifying events launch Nic and two friends on a hunt for a powerful magic tool she’s never heard of…to save her father from imprisonment for a crime she refuses to believe he committed.
“All the brilliance you’d expect from Angie Thomas: a page-turning plot, pitch-perfect characters, heart and substance, and real stakes that real kids will care about—plus magic! This is one of those rare books that will instantly become the best friend you didn’t know you needed. NicBlake and the Remarkables is nothing short of a triumph. When’s the next installment, please?” — Rick Riordan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series
“Packed with humor and bursting with heart and imagination, Nic’s story will enchant readers of all ages!” — B.B. Alston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Amari and the Night Brothers
“Exploding with heart, humor, and all things Black Girl Magic, Nic Blake and the Remarkables is a triumph of friendship and Black Southern folklore and history.’ — Dhonielle Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Marvellers
“This book is no-holds-barred, fly by the seat of your pants (and other methods) trip to the corner of Thrill Street and Wonder Avenue. Nic Blake is amazing!” — Kwame Mbalia, author of the Tristan Strong series
About the Author: Angie Thomas is the author of the award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling novels The Hate U Give, On the Come Up, and Concrete Rose as well as Find Your Voice: A Guided Journal for Writing Your Truth. She is also a coauthor of the bestselling collaborative novels Blackout and Whiteout. Angie divides her time between her native Jackson, Mississippi and Atlanta, Georgia. You can find her online at www.angiethomas.com.
Although the world building is great and it is right up the alley for students who love middle grade contemporary fantasy adventures and the pacing is perfect, which keeps the reader reading, it was Nic Blake’s voice that truly sold me. It is fantastic! She is sassy and strong and witty! She is someone you root for right away and also trust as a character, which is important in these types of fantasy novels.
How does Nic deal with her life turning upside down? What does this tell you about her character?
How does the author intertwine history within her fantasy novel? What do you think her purpose of doing this is?
What folklore influences Thomas’s story?
What are the different character traits of the trio? How do they complement each other? How do the three of them compare/contrast to the original trio of Nic’s mom, dad, and godfather?
How does Nic’s story compare to the hero’s journey?
Read This If You Love: The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton, Amari series by B.B. Alston, Tristan Strong series by Kwame Mbalia, Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros, Dragons in a Bag series by Zetta Elliott, Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu
**Thank you to Spark Point Studio for providing a copy for review!**
The Marvellers (Marvellverse #1)
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Published: May 3rd, 2022 by Henry Holt and Co.
Summary: Author Dhonielle Clayton makes her middle-grade debut with a fantasy adventure set in a global magic school in the sky.
Eleven-year-old Ella Durand is the first Conjuror to attend the Arcanum Training Institute, where Marvellers from all around the world come together to practice their cultural arts like brewing Indian spice elixirs, practicing Caribbean steel drum hypnosis, and bartering with fussy Irish faeries. Ella knows some people mistrust her Conjuror magic, often deemed “bad and unnatural,” but she’s eager to make a good impression—and, hopefully, some friends.
But Ella discovers that being the first isn’t easy, and not all of the Marvellers are welcoming. Still, she connects with fellow misfits Brigit, a girl who hates magic, and Jason, who is never found without a magical creature or two. Just as Ella begins to find her way at the A.T.I., a notorious criminal escapes from prison, supposedly with Conjurors’ help. Worse, her favorite teacher Masterji Thakur never returns from a research trip, and only Ella seems concerned about his disappearance.
As tensions grow in the Marvellian world, Ella finds herself the target of vicious rumors and growing suspicions. With the help of her new friends, Ella must find a way to clear her family’s name and track down her beloved mentor Masterji Thakur . . . before she loses her place at the A.T.I. forever.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions:
Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for The Marvellers:
Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement Author: Sandra Neil Wallace
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Published January 10th, 2023 by Simon & Schuster
Summary: Diane grew up in the southside of Chicago in the 1940s. As a university student, she visited the Tennessee State Fair in 1959. Shocked to see a bathroom sign that read , Diane learned that segregation in the South went beyond schools—it was part of daily life. She decided to fight back, not with anger or violence, but with strong words of truth and action.
Finding a group of like-minded students, including student preacher John Lewis, Diane took command of the Nashville Movement. They sat at the lunch counters where only white people were allowed and got arrested, day after day. Leading thousands of marchers to the courthouse, Diane convinced the mayor to integrate lunch counters. Then, she took on the Freedom Rides to integrate bus travel, garnering support from Martin Luther King Jr. and then the president himself—John F. Kennedy.
*”A poignant and powerful portrayal of the life and work of an unsung civil rights activist….Wallace’s text lends buoyancy to the narrative, making it a memorable read-aloud.” — Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
*”Wallace’s emotive second-person text condenses Nash’s extensive activism into an inspiring meditation on love as the heart of justice, while Collier’s watercolor and collage illustrations bring artful dimension to Nash’s nonviolent resistance.” — Pubishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
*“During the 1960s, Diane Nash was one of the most influential and effective leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, yet most people don’t know who she is.” Wallace’s latest picture-book collaboration with Collier seeks to correct that ….the book opens with images of Nash’s parents cradling her as a baby and then of Nash, as a small child, being hugged by her grandmother, highlighting the love that encouraged her activism.” — The Horn Book — STARRED REVIEW
“This picture-book biography honors Diane Nash, a significant figure in the civil rights movement…. Written in direct but poetic phrases… A fitting portrayal of Diane Nash, a civil rights leader who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022.” — Booklist
About the Creators:
Sandra Neil Wallace writes about people who break barriers and change the world. She is the author of several award-winning books for children, including Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, illustrated by Bryan Collier, which received the Orbis Pictus Book Award and was an ALA Notable Book. A former ESPN reporter and the first woman to host an NHL broadcast, she is the recipient of the Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Award and creates change as cofounder of The Daily Good, a nonprofit bringing twenty thousand free, culturally diverse foods to college students each year through its Global Foods Pantries. Visit Sandra at SandraNeilWallace.com.
Bryan Collier is a beloved illustrator known for his unique style combining watercolor and detailed collage. He is a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient for Trombone Shorty, Dave the Potter, Martin’s Big Words, and Rosa. His books have won many other awards as well, including six Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. His recent books include By and By,Thurgood, The Five O’Clock Band, and Between the Lines. He lives in New York with his family.
Review:Sandra Neil Wallace’s biography of Diane Nash is a force of book filled with a powerful story which will inspire whomever reads it and illustrations that are pieces of art on each page. Diane Nash is a name that not as many people know, but she should be included in all of the historical discussions surrounding the Civil Rights Movement; this book will help get her name to a new generation.
I particularly liked the way that Wallace highlighted particular words throughout the book purposefully to capture the emotions or actions of that time in Nash’s life. The choice of words would lead to such fantastic conversations about both author’s purpose and descriptive language. Additionally, the text is written in 2nd person which is not often found in nonfiction historical picture books, so it is great exposure to that point of view.
Read This If You Love: Learning about activists, the Civil Rights Movement, and strong women who make a difference
**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**
The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey Author & Illustrator: Jason Chin
Published October 18th, 2022
Summary: Caldecott Medalist Jason Chin’s companion book to the award-winning Your Place in the Universe explores the world of the very small, delving deep into the microscopic world just beneath our skin.
From Jason Chin, Caldecott Medalist for Watercress and Cook Prize winning author and illustrator of Your Place in the Universe comes The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey, a companion book about the very small, from the tiniest mammals to the intricate structures of microscopic organisms and subatomic particles that make up every human body. This deep dive into an unseen world explores the building blocks of all matter and life, demonstrating how much we have in common with everything around us.
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Horn Book Fanfare Title
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:Jason Chin does it again: combining impeccable illustrations with science to take the reader into the microscopic world within our universe. Chin is such a master at bringing the reader into whatever world he has decided to explore and share with us. His writing is thorough and interesting, his illustrations are detailed and labeled, and the book together is definitely the journey he promises.
What is so special about the structure of the book? Why do you think the author set the structure up this way?
What is the smallest thing in the universe? How do these small particles impact us?
How does the author make this nonfiction book like a journey?
Of Walden Pond: Henry David Thoreau, Frederic Tudor, and the Pond Between Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator: Ashley Benham-Yazdani
Published November 15th, 2022 by Holiday House
Summary: From the award-winning author of Before She Was Harriet comes another work of lyrical beauty, the story of Henry David Thoreau and businessman Frederic Tudor–and a changing world.
Thoreau and Tudor could not have been more different from each other. Yet both shared the bounties of Walden Pond and would change the course of history through their writings and innovations.
This study in opposites contrasts the austere philosopher with the consummate capitalist (whose innovations would change commercial ice harvesting and home refrigerators) to show how two seemingly conflicting American legacies could be built side by side.
Oddball/ tax dodger/ nature lover/ dreamer/ That’s what they called/ Thoreau. Bankrupt/ disgrace/ good for nothing/ dreamer/ That’s what they called/ Tudor.
Celebrated author Lesa Cline-Ransome takes her magnificent talent for research and detail to plumb the depths of these two history-makers. The graceful text is paired with Ashley Benham-Yazdani’s period accurate watercolor and pencil artwork. In winter, readers see Tudor’s men sawing through the ice, the workhorses dragging the ice, and Thoreau observing it all; in spring, summer, and fall, the ice continues its journey across the globe with Thoreau and Tudor writing and reflecting in their respective diaries.
An Author’s Note, which explores how Thoreau’s writings influenced such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Frost, and Mohandas Gandhi, is included.
Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:Lesa Cline-Ransome introduces us to another aspect of Walden Pond that Thoreau fans may not know about: Tudor’s industrial side of the pond. Cline Ransome’s verse shows us the contrast between the two lives that are tied together by the pond that they both loved, for very different reasons. Beautifully written with rhythm that yells for it to be read aloud.
Benham-Yazdani’s “period accurate watercolor” reminds me of Grandma Moses which is perfect for this story!
What does the different fascinations with the pond show you about the two men?
Why do you think the author chose to write the book in verse separated by seasons?
What did you learn about the past of ice that surprised you?
Polar Bear Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Published November 22nd, 2022 by Holiday House
Summary: This companion book to the authors’ Sibert award-winning Honeybee explores the life and habitat of a majestic endangered species through dramatic text and sumptuous illustration.
April in the Arctic . . . Cold winds send snow clouds scuttling across the sky. Temperatures barely nudge above freezing. But every now and again, The cloud cover parts, The sun shines down, And the frozen world stretches awake.
As spring approaches in the Arctic, a mother polar bear and her two cubs tentatively emerge from hibernation to explore the changing landscape. When it is time, she takes her cubs on a forty-mile journey, back to their home on the ice. Along the way, she fends off wolves, hunts for food, and swims miles and miles.
This companion book to Honeybee and Giant Squid features the unique talents of Fleming and Rohmann on a perennially popular subject. Eric Rohmann’s magnificent oil paintings feature (as in Honeybee) a spectacular gatefold of the polar landscape.
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:Candace Fleming’s beautiful verse introduces us to the polar bear and all of the trials and tribulations she faces with her cubs in the Arctic. Within the narrative, we learn so much information about them and their habitat. The verse adds an extra poetic element to the book that just brings it to the next leve.
Add to that Rohmann’s illustrations, and this stunning picture book sucks in the reader through word and pictures. Backmatter adds even more information through shared research and fun facts.
Why do you think that author chose to write the book in verse?
What does the gatefold add to the experience of reading Polar Bear?
What are the biggest threats to polar bears?
Why does the back matter include the statement “I’s All About the Ice?”
We’re Not Weird: Structure and Function in the Animal Kingdom Author & Illustrator: Michael Garland
Published January 3rd, 2023 by Holiday House
Summary: Meet nature’s most extraordinary looking creatures. But they aren’t weird!
Birds with blue feet, fish that walk, unicorns in the sea, and more! Learn how these animals’ quirks help them survive. Perfect for budding naturalists who are always ready to share a cool (or gross) animal fact.
Very hard scales protect me, and my long tongue is perfect for eating ants. When I feel threatened, I roll myself into a ball. I am a Pangolin.
See these animals’ amazing body parts in vibrant and detailed woodcut illustrations, from the thorny dragon’s spiky skin to the star-nosed mole’s twenty-two feelers. Read how these creatures’ unique traits help them thrive and survive in their environments. Learn where they live, what they eat, how they protect themselves, and more.
With easy-to-read text vetted by an expert, this book aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards on adaptation, structure, and function for kindergarten through 3rd grade. With supplementary information on each animal’s habitat and diet.
Review:This book introduces the reader to so many different unique animals (20 of them!), featuring what makes them different than others. The text in the book is written in 1st person with interesting facts and an introduction to the animal. Additional info on each animal is on in the back matter giving even more information about the animal including their habitat and diet.
Which of the animals would you like to learn more about? Why?
Choose your own animal to research and write an introduction, in 1st person, highlighting the animal’s uniqueness and interesting facts.
What is similar about all of the animals’ unique features?
The Science of Light: Things that Shine, Flash, and Glow Author & Illustrator: Margaret Peot
Published December 6th, 2022 by Holiday House
Summary: With a striking glow-in-the-dark cover, this intriguing science book invites young readers to find light all around.
Sun shines. Stars twinkle. Aurora borealis glimmers.
Dramatic paintings of lightning, fire, fireworks and more introduces the sources of light–both natural and manmade–and encourage children to look around and observe.
Kids will gasp in surprise at the beautiful glow-in-the-dark cover, and the bold spreads within. Margaret Peot’s distinctive art style captures the elusive nature of light. Bioluminescent squid, fireflies and phytoplankton reveal light sources in living things. Fireworks and light bubbles sparkle on the page.
This foundational science book will kindle curiosity in physical science and the natural world. The simple text makes science accessible to all ages.
Toddlers will delight in the colorful art at storytime. As they grow, kids will return to this nonfiction favorite and discover new ideas each time. Science vocabulary and definitions are included in the back of the book.
An Orbis Pictus Honor Book
Review:This beautifully illustrated book with sparse text gives an introduction to light in science including natural sources of light, bioluminescence, and artificial light. All of the animals, nature, and items in the book are tied together by the light that they make.
The author’s backmatter adds even more depth to the text by sharing more information on the different types of light, a bibliography, and websites to learn more.
What are the differences between the three types of light shared in the book?
Which of the types fascinates you the most?
How does bioluminescence work?
**Thank you to Sara at Holiday House for providing copies for review!**
Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid Author: Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco Illustrator: Joy Ang Published: July 19, 2022 by Workman Publishing Company
Goodreads Summary: Journey to the World’s Most Mysterious Places
Created by the same team behind Atlas Obscura, the #1 New York Times bestseller that has over 600,000 copies in print in its first year, The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid is a thrillingly imaginative expedition to 100 weird-but-true places on earth. And just as compelling is the way the book is structured—hopscotching from country to country not by location but by type of attraction. For example, visit the site of the Tunguska event in Siberia, where a meteor slammed into the earth in 1908—and then skip over to the Yucatan, ground zero for the ancient meteor crash that caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs. Then, while in Mexico, tour the fantastical Naica caves, home to crystals ten times larger than the average person—then, turn the page to Vietnam to a cave so vast you could fly a 747 through it. Illustrated in gorgeous and appropriately evocative full-color art, this book is a passport to a world of hidden possibilities.
Ricki’s Review: The images in this book are absolutely captivating. My children read a few pages each day (and seem to think their parents have an unlimited wallet for travel). This is the kind of book that really appeals to me as an adult who reads to my kids. I am absolutely fascinated by the places in this book, so it makes for a wonderful shared reading. I highly recommend this one.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to create an Atlas Obscura of their community. Each student can take a local place that is “obscura” and write a description. The book can be compiled and bound. Another idea is to have students select one of the places as the setting for a story. This book inspires story!
Which places do you want to visit most?
What did each of these places remind you of?
How did the illustrations enhance your reading?
**Thank you go Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**
Magnolia Flower Written by Zora Neale Hurston and Adapted by Ibram X. Kendi Illustrator: Loveis Wise Published: September 6, 2022 by Amistad Books for Young Readers
Goodreads Summary: From beloved African American folklorist Zora Neale Hurston comes a moving adaptation by National Book Award winner and #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and Antiracist Baby, Ibram X. Kendi. Magnolia Flower follows a young Afro Indigenous girl who longs for freedom and is gorgeously illustrated by Loveis Wise (The People Remember, Ablaze with Color).
Born to parents who fled slavery and the Trail of Tears, Magnolia Flower is a girl with a vibrant spirit. Not to be deterred by rigid ways of the world, she longs to connect with others, who too long for freedom. She finds this in a young man of letters who her father disapproves of. In her quest to be free, Magnolia must make a choice and set off on a journey that will prove just how brave one can be when leading with one’s heart.
The acclaimed writer of several American classics, Zora Neale Hurston wrote this stirring folktale brimming with poetic prose, culture, and history. It was first published as a short story in The Spokesman in 1925 and later in her collection Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (2020).
Tenderly retold by #1 New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi, Magnolia Flower is a story of a transformative and radical devotion between generations of Indigenous and Black people in America. With breathtaking illustrations by Loveis Wise, this picture book reminds us that there is no force strong enough to stop love.
Ricki’s Review: Magnolia Flower is a short story by Zora Neale Hurston, and it has been adapted into this picture book. The illustrations and words will appeal to kids, but as an adult, I felt like this was written for me, too. It has stunning figurative language, and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful. The author’s notes at the end helped me understand more about the book.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might have students select a longer work (e.g. a short story) and adapt the book into a picture book.
What does this story tell us about love?
What does this story tell you about history?
If you haven’t read the longer work, what do you think it might include, beyond this book?
**Thank you go Leilani at SparkPoint Studio for providing a copy for review!**