Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rossell

While residing at a health resort with her three stingy aunts, Stella Montgomery witnesses the murder of an elderly hotel patron, Mr. Filbert. But before his death, Mr. Filbert entrusts Stella with an ancient bottle to keep away from his murderer—a magician known as The Professor.

Withering-by-Sea is the start of Rossell’s new illustrated middle-grade series. It is a tale full of danger, magic, friendship, death, and mystery. As the story opens, readers are introduced to young Stella Montgomery. Some might say she has a fabulous life traveling all over the world with her three wealthy aunts. But as readers take a closer, they realize Stella is a lost, neglected little girl who is literally searching for her place in the pages of her ruined Atlas. Surprisingly, after Mr. Filbert’s death, Stella’s life comes alive to new worlds, friendships, and adventures. Up to that point, she was just enduring the insults in hopes of receiving stray clues to her parents’ past. Afterwards, her intelligence, courage, and untapped magical abilities aid her to survive the terrors dealt by The Professor. A fun, intriguing read similar to such classics as The Little Princess and James and the Giant Peach.     

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spot, the Cat by Henry Cole

A boy’s cat, Spot, gets distracted by the world outside and goes on a journey to see the city for himself. When the boy realizes Spot is missing, he feverishly searches the busy metropolis for his beloved cat. But several near misses keep the two from reuniting until Spot returns home.

Cole’s intricately detailed wordless picture book is a feast for the eyes. His pen and ink illustrations bring a city to life as a boy and his cat navigate their way back to each other. Their tale begins with readers viewing an intimate, relaxing day at home. But Spot is drawn into the huge wide world and he must satisfy his curiosity. Once Spot leaves the apartment, Cole pulls his illustration perspective back so readers become pedestrians searching for Spot and helping the boy. When all hope seems lost, readers are zoomed into the boy’s perspective again to observe his loving reunion with Spot. More heartfelt and story-driven than any Where’s Waldo book, Spot, the Cat is a story readers of all ages can relish over and over again. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova, illustrations by Nick Wroblewshi

During the dawning hours, as a child sleeps soundly in bed, the world on the child’s island home starts waking up. Animals, birds, plants, and insects begin their morning routines of waking from their beds, foraging for food, and securing their homes. In the midst of all this outdoor activity, the child is awakened by the sun’s light. However, a hearty pancake breakfast can’t keep the child from running outside to welcome the start of a new day.

In the picture book world, there are countless bedtime stories. But what about books that wake up young readers to the outdoors? Casanova and Wroblewski successfully forge ahead into a new reading realm with Wake Up, Island. Inspired by Casanova’s pre-dawn canoeing trips on Minnesota’s lakes, Wake Up, Island is a call to readers to be aware of the life outside of their human environment and to respectfully experience Nature for themselves. Casanova’s expressive text with Wroblewshi’s rich woodcut prints vividly render the intimate morning routines of animals, birds, plants, and insects. But the author and illustrator also draws young readers into Nature’s sunrise schedule by showing how they impact the start of a beautiful day. A fun yet thoughtful sensory read, Wake Up, Island can be a helpful tool to get kids hooked into the vibrant outdoors rather than being entangled into the alternate realities of media.