Out of this World: Star-Studded Haiku by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Matthew Trueman

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  This collection of haiku looks at different aspects of the universe including constellations, astronomers, stars, the sun, all the planets (even Pluto!), moons, comets, and asteroids.  Each poem is supported with mixed media art to show various spacescapes.  Includes additional information for each section, a glossary, a reading list, and a list of online resources.  48 pages; grades 2-6.  

Pros:  This book will appeal to many different types of readers: poets (a great intro to haiku), scientists, and artists.  The illustrations are awe-inspiring and will fire up kids’ imaginations about the wonders of space.

Cons:  I wish someone had come up with a slightly more imaginative title than the hackneyed “Out of This World”.

Yoshi and the Ocean: A Sea Turtle’s Incredible Journey Home by Lindsay Moore

Published by Greenwillow Books

Summary:  Yoshi is a young, injured sea turtle when she is rescued by fishermen and sent to an aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa.  She thrives there, growing and swimming in a giant tank for twenty years, until she starts to display some restlessness.  The scientists want to return her to the wild, but they’re worried that she won’t be able to survive.  They attach a tracking device to her shell before releasing her back into the ocean.  At first her travels seem random, but eventually she starts heading east.  In February 2020, more than two years after her release, Yoshi completed a 25,000-mile journey to reach the Australian waters where she was born.  Includes a labeled map with additional information about Yoshi’s journey, a labeled diagram of a sea turtle, and additional information about turtles, their habitat, and tracking devices.  64 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  The beautiful watercolor illustrations do an amazing job of portraying Yoshi and her ocean environment.  I liked how the repeated refrain “Hello from Yoshi.  I am here” showed how the tracking device helped scientists follow her journey.  There’s a ton of excellent back matter which makes this a great research book.

Cons:  I found Yoshi’s lengthy journey a bit monotonous at times.  Maybe she did too.

My Big Book of Outdoors by Tim Hopgood

Published by Candlewick Studio

Summary:  Each of the four seasons is explored with poetry, crafts, and science and nature information.  For instance, here is a sample of the section on spring includes: poems called “Splish-Splash!” and “Rainbow, Rainbow”; what you might find under a rock (illustrated); how to make a chocolate nest; constructing a bug hotel; different types of eggs and feathers; and how to tell a frog and a toad apart.  Everything is illustrated with collage-style illustrations.  128 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  A delightful mishmash of seasonal facts, poetry, and crafts with plenty of big, bold, colorful illustrations.  Parents and preschool teachers will find lots of ideas here, but the craft instructions and scientific information are simple and straightforward enough for early elementary kids to enjoy on their own.

Cons:  It’s kind of a big book to haul along on your outdoor explorations.

Who’s Looking? How Animals See the World by Carol Matas, illustrated by Cornelia Li

Published by Orca Book Publishers

Summary:  As two sisters walk through various landscapes, the text and illustrations show how they are seen by different animals.  The first pages show how the younger sister saw the world as a baby and how the nearsighted older sister sees it without her glasses.  Other animals see fewer or more colors than humans, can see things from a greater distance, or have 360-degree vision.  Animals are shown on land, in the water, and flying in the sky.  The author’s note tells how a walk with her grandson inspired the book.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  It’s very cool to see the world as other animals see it, and the illustrations bring this to life, particularly the ones that contrast what the animal sees with what the humans are seeing.  Kids are sure to find this fascinating.

Cons:  Some concepts, like seeing more colors than humans, were a little tricky to show in the illustrations.

Time to Shine: Celebrating the World’s Iridescent Animals by Karen Jameson, illustrated by Dave Murray

Published by Groundwood Books

Summary: The first page defines iridescence as “the rainbow-like shimmer seen on some bird feathers, fish scales, insect bodies and more.”  Each two-page spread after that shows a brilliantly-colored illustration of the iridescent animal with a rhyming couplet and a paragraph of additional information.  The final two pages show all the animals.  Includes additional information about iridescence (including the recent discovery of a dinosaur with iridescent feathers) and a list of sources.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The gorgeous illustrations are sure to catch kids’ eyes, and the brief but informative text will have them looking for iridescent animals wherever they go.

Cons:  Apparently there are no iridescent mammals.

The Adventures of Dr. Sloth: Rebecca Cliffe and Her Quest to Protect Sloths by Suzi Eszterhas

Published by Millbrook Press

Summary:  Wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas teams with Dr. Rebecca Cliffe (a.k.a. Dr. Sloth or Becky) to introduce kids to sloths, including different sloth species, their habitats, diets, behavior, and babies.  Readers learn about dangers to sloth, which mostly come from their interactions with the human world.  Becky’s work is described, from her childhood interest in nature and biology to the groundbreaking techniques she has used to observe sloths, becoming one of the first scientists to study these animals in-depth.  The organization she founded, Sloth Conservation Foundation, focuses on saving sloths in the wild, and readers get some tips on how they can help.  Includes a glossary and additional resources.  40 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  I’m a big Suzi Eszterhas fan because her books are so appealing to young readers.  Her wildlife photography is amazing, and she tends to write about animals with a lot of kid appeal.  This book is no exception, and I look forward to adding it to my library.

Cons:  Can’t wait for the first kid to learn the fascinating facts about sloths’ elimination:  they only pee and poop once a week and lose about 30 percent of their body weight when they do.

Mushroom Rain by Laura Zimmerman, illustrated by Jamie Green

Published by Sleeping Bear Press

Summary:  Mushrooms can suddenly pop up anywhere, especially after a rain.  With a wide variety of colors and scents, the mushrooms are often used as food, including by humans.  The mushrooms may seem to disappear, but they continue to grow underground, the largest stretching for miles after growing for thousands of years.  Mushrooms reproduce by spores, which can even seed clouds and produce the rain that encourages the growth of new mushrooms.  Includes four pages of information about mushrooms, including a craft and additional resources.  32 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  A fascinating look at something many of us may take for granted, with gorgeous close-up illustrations of a wide variety of mushrooms.

Cons:  Is it just me, or are mushrooms just a little bit creepy?

Waiting for Mama by Gianna Marino

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

Summary:  A penguin egg narrates what it hears as its mother goes for food and its father keeps it warm and safe, tucked between his feet.  Finally, the egg hatches, and the baby is able to see its dad.  When the mother penguins all return, the baby listens for its mother’s distinctive sounds.  Finally, it recognizes her, and the family is reunited.  Includes additional information about emperor penguins.  40 pages; ages 2-6.

Pros:  Beautiful illustrations depict penguin scenes both close-up and zoomed out, backed by gorgeous Antarctic sky.  Does double duty as a perfect read for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

Cons:  Cons for a book about animal parents on Mother’s Day? Not on my watch.  

Surviving the Wild (series) by Remy Lai

Published by Henry Holt and Company

Summary:  Each book in this new graphic novel series tells a true story of survival from an animal’s perspective.  Star and her mother and aunt seek a new home due to deforestation.  They swim to an island where they’re captured by humans and sent to an elephant sanctuary.  Rainbow survives a wildfire in the Australian bush country and is taken to a koala hospital before being released back into the wild.  Both books include several pages at the end that tell more about the animals, their story, and what kids can do to help the environment.  108 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  A perfect trifecta of cute and funny animals, graphic novel format, and important environmental information.  Book 3, Sunny the Shark, will be available in August.

Cons:  The ways to take action feel like such tiny drops in the whole climate change bucket.

Sun in My Tummy by Laura Alary, illustrated by Andrea Blinick

Published by Pajama Press

Summary:  Oatmeal, blueberries, and milk may seem like a ho-hum breakfast, but there is magic in the foods we eat.  The oats and the blueberries grew out of the soil, warmed by the sun, and watered by the rain.  They make food from sunlight, creating seeds which can be used to grow new plants.  The cow was able to make milk because she ate grass that grew with the help of sun and rain as well.  “Inside everything, if you look deep enough, you will find the sun. Warm-hearted. Generous. Giving.”  Includes additional information about photosynthesis.  32 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  This is an excellent science book for primary grades, starting with a concept everyone will recognize and using free verse and whimsical illustrations to foster a sense of wonder about the natural world.

Cons:  I felt like this book could use a subtitle, since “Sun in My Tummy” may not immediately call to mind photosynthesis.