Monday, December 26, 2011

Frances Books

I have had people ask me why I refer to my daughters as Frances and Gloria on my blog.  This is especially confusing to people who know my children in real life, as these are not their real names.  So I had pulled the Frances books by Russell Hoban to create a blog post on these beloved books, but it was far down on the pile of potential bog posts.  After all, I am still posting  on Cybils titles.  Then I heard that Russell Hoban (the author of the Frances books) had died, and this post moved up.  Not only did he write these books, but he wrote some of my other favorites, too - The Mouse and His Child, Emmett Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, and one of my particular favorites,  Harvey's Hideout

But I'm here to celebrate the Frances books in particular.  There are six books about Frances, the badger, published between 1960 and 1970.  There is also a companion books of Frances' "songs" called Egg Thoughts and other Frances Songs (1972).  These books continue to resonate with children today.  As I gathered information to write this post, the pile of books kept moving as my girls took them off to their room to read.  I think there are several things about these stories that are universal and makes the books still enjoyable today.  The delicious food, the poetic songs Frances creates and most of all the comforting dynamic are all strong themes throughout the series.

The first book Hoban wrote about Frances was Bedtime for Frances (1960).  This book is about the universal problem for preschoolers - falling asleep.  Frances can't fall asleep, and she keeps coming out to pester her parents.  In this first book, Frances is already exhibiting some of her constant personality traits.  She insists on having all her stuffed animals, a tricycle and a sled piled up next to her bed.  She sings herself an alphabet song to soothe herself "A is for apple pie/B is for bear/C is for crocodile, combing his hair."  And like any other child in this situation, her imagination runs wild - a crack on the ceiling has spiders climbing out of it, a robe hanging over a chair is a giant.  Through it all, her parents display admirable calm, restraint and patience.  That is, until Frances wakes up her father by standing next to his bed, staring at him very quietly (I'd be grumpy too!).  He tells Frances that everyone has a job, and that hers is to go to sleep.  If he doesn't go to work, he tells Frances, he will be out of a job.  "'And if you do not go to sleep now, do you know what will happen to you?' 'I will be out of a job?' said Frances.  'No,' said Father. 'I will get a spanking?' said Frances.  'Right!' said Father.  'Good night!' said Frances, and she went back to her room."  Sometimes clear consequences do the trick, and their matter of fact way of handling even this situation is one of my favorite things about this series.  We read this book every couple of months when there are sleep problems in our household, and with all the Christmas excitement, it's time for a re-reading.

A Baby Sister for Frances (1964) is the next book chronologically.  And as is evident from the title, there is someone else sharing her parents' attention.  After some perceived slights (a dress isn't ironed, Frances is asked to be quiet), Frances decides to run away from home...under the dining room table.  While she sits and eats prunes, her parents mention aloud how much they miss Frances.  They particularly miss her songs, but they also note how sad Gloria is without her older sister.  Mother says "a girl looks up to an older sister.  You know that."  This is all said in their trademark gentle style.  Frances' parents never get too angry, but just deal with things as they come along.  Mother says later "Babies are very nice.  Goodness knows I like babies, but a baby is not a family."  Father chimes in "A family is everybody all together."  Frances does indeed return home to everyone's relief.  And the issue of change in the family is dealt with in a reassuring way.  Frances is still important to her parents and her place as older sister is defined.  This book is the one my particular Frances requests most often.  I'm not sure what she likes best about it, but I suspect it is not the prunes!

While there has been food sprinkled throughout the first two books, Hoban really ups the ante in Bread and Jam for Frances (1964).  Gloria is now a toddler, and Frances has decided that what she would prefer to eat at every meal is bread and jam.  So her mother, calmly and without a lot of fanfare, begins to serve Frances bread and jam exclusively.  Her friend Albert, making his first appearance, has a lunch that puts Frances' bread and jam to shame.  Indeed, the description of Albert's lunch takes up almost an entire page of text.  It is lovingly described, and you can feel Frances' envy growing as he relates the contents.  When he begins to eat, Frances watches as "He took a bite of sandwich, a bite of pickle, a bite of hard-boiled egg, and a drink of milk.  Then he sprinkledmore salt on the egg and went around again."  When Frances begins to cry in desperation after being served bread and jam again, she wails to her mother "How doyou know what I'll like if you won't even try me?"  All's well that ends well, though - the next day at lunch Frances unpacks an entire picnic basket of food, including a thermos of soup, a lobster-salad sandwich and vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles, among other things. Yum!

Sadly, it isn't Frances' birthday in A Birthday for Frances (1968).  It's Gloria's birthday.  And that makes life a lot harder for Frances.  After all, it's very difficult to celebrate a sibling's birthday.  Frances feels guilty about not wantng to give Gloria a present, and finally decides to spend some of her allowance on Gloria.  It's the right thing to do, but that doesn't make it any easier to give up the candy she's purchased.  Once again, this book shows off some of the hallmarks of this series.  Her parents handle Frances' struggles with calm demeanor.  They affirm her feelings without much comment on them.  They love Frances no matter what, but encourage her to come to the right decision.  There are perfect moments in this book, such as when Frances is walking home from the candy store, she puts two of the four gumballs into her mouth and starts chewing "without noticing it".  Later, Father asks her "'Is there something in your mouth?' 'I think maybe there is bubble gum,' said Frances, 'but I don't remember how it got there.'"  Or when Frances insists on singing Happy Birthday to Gloria again, since she didn't really mean it the first time.  Gloria is more of a little sister in this volume.  She has her own friend, but clearly adores Frances.  This is a popular choice in our house - after all, it is hard to celebrate a birthday that isn't yours.

Gloria really comes into her own in Best Friends for Frances (1969).  Albert, who is Frances' best friend, doesn't want to play with Frances, and would rather do stuff alone or with other boys.  He takes an impressive picnic lunch with him on his wanderings, the first discussion of food in this one.  Frances goes home feeling dejected, and it is Gloria who steps in.  She asks Frances if she can be her friend.  She and Frances plan their own outing, complete with a sign that reads "BEST FRIENDS OUTING NO BOYS".  So of course Albert wants to come.  He is especially intrigued by the picnic hamper, which is so laden with food it requires a wagon.  I couldn't possibly quote the page and a half description of what's inside the hamper, but I will tell you that Frances ends that description with "And there are salt and pepper shakers and napkins and a checked tablecloth, which is the way girls do it."  It turns out that Gloria forms a bridge between Frances' hurt feelings and Albert so that they can become friends again.  And in turn, when Gloria feels left out, Albert and Frances come together to include Gloria.  It is particularly in this book that my Gloria reminds me of Hoban's Gloria.  She loves doing things with her sister, but is a little more rough and tumble than her sister (in the book, Gloria wants Albert to teach her to catch snakes).  She doesn't want to be left out, but wants to be included on her own terms.

Now we come to the last (but my favorite) of the Frances books, A Bargain for Frances (1970).  In this book, Frances has a new friend, Thelma (I suspect Hoban had a fondness for Albert and didn't want him to be the bad guy, but that's just a guess).  Frances' mother warns Frances to be careful and says "Because when you play with Thelma, you always get the worst of it."  But Frances blithely goes to Thelma's house where she announces she's saving her allowances for a real china tea set.  Thelma quietly schemes to get Frances to buy her cheap plastic set, and hurries off to buy the china set for herself.  When Frances discovers what Thelma has done, she manipulates Thelma right back, tricking her into taking back the tea set (and after Thelma had told Frances 'no backsies' too!).  It is a genius move, and shows some real spunk on Frances' part.  My girls are just beginning to experience other children trying to get what they want at all costs.  A Bargain for Frances has opened their eyes to the ways you can get your own back when you think the bargain wasn't made equally.  I'll always remember the description of the real china tea set, with paintings on each piece in blue.

I've waxed on and on about these books, but there's still more to be said.  I haven't even touched on Lillian Hoban and Garth Williams' illustrations, or Egg Thoughts and other Frances songs or the ubiquitious cardboard salt shakers, or the fact that all the titles start with a B, or...well, you get the idea.  These are classics, well worth visiting again and again.  Russell Hoban lives on in these stories.

Bedtime for Frances.  Russell Hoban; pictures by Garth Williams. Scholastic, 1960.
A Baby Sister for Frances.  Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban.  HarperCollins, 1964, 1993.
Bread and Jam for Frances.  Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban.  HarperCollins, 1964, 1993.
A Birthday for Frances.  Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban.  HarperCollins, 1968, 1995.
Best Friends for Frances.  Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban.  HarperCollins, 1969, 1994.
A Bargain for Frances.  Russell Hoban; pictures by Lillian Hoban.  Harper & Row, 1970.

All books borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library, except Bargain which I borrowed from Helena School District.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker

I am a Christmas book junkie.  I have Christmas stories from my childhood and books that I have collected over the years from book sales and library donations.  Every year I give each of my daughters a new Christmas title (this year I found a favorite from my library storytime days called A New Suit for Santa for Gloria and Strega Nona's Gift for Frances).  We have so many Christmas books that every year I wrap 25 Christmas stories and we open and read one each day and we still have plenty left to enjoy at other times.  Yes, say it with me: I am a Christmas book junkie.

So when HarperCollins sent me Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker to review, the girls and I were excited.  We have several great versions of The Nutcracker at home, and I wondered how this one would stack up against some of our favorites.  I actually really like this version, but I am not surprised.  If you don't know Mary Engelbreit, she is a designer who dabbles in many artistic endeavors.  She has created greeting cards, fabric, home decorating books, a magazine and many other things based on her darling, vintage illustrative style.  Now in the past few years Engelbreit has begun issuing her own versions of some famous children's stories (Mary Engelbreit's Fairy Tales, Mary Engelbreit's Mother Goose) as well as writing her own original stories (at our house, The Queen of Halloween is a favorite).

Engelbreit has an amazing knack for distilling the plot into a storyline easy for readers to follow.  The Nutcracker can be confusing.  After all, there are two distinct sets of events - Marie meeting the Nutcracker and battling with the Mouse King, and then the trip to Toyland.  But here, with just a few lines of text on each page, Engelbreit keeps what's important and focuses it.  Her version isn't long (it probably took us ten minutes to read aloud), but it has all the elements we love - magic, fantasy, action and even some romance.  And instead of seeing all the action swirling across a stage in a ballet performance, where there are often many things going on, Engelbreit keeps everything told through Marie's perspective.  It allows children to really identify with Marie, with her love for the ugly Nutcracker, her anger at Fritz, her bravery, her awe.  Readers see it all through Marie's wide eyes.

This is a retelling of the original version, created by E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816 as The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. As such, there is no mention of ballet in this version, which may serve as a contrast with other versions.  Having experienced the ballet both with Frances and on my own, I know the storyline can sometimes be forgotten in the face of glorious ballet performances and swirling costumes.  But there is still dance in this story, especially in Toyland.  Engelbreit has paid homage to the movements and dance of the characters subtly throughout.  This works because so much of this story is experienced through its illustrations.

Mary Engelbreit's illustrative style evokes the illustrations of old, and this book is no exception.  On the jacket flap of this book, Engelbreit explains that she is influenced by old picture books, and you can definitely see it here.  It's in Herr Drosselmeyer's top hat, the style of houses, the cars and the toys pictured throughout.  For those who are aficionados of Engelbreit's work, many of her regular motifs and characters appear here as well.  The old-fashioned look of the book is also tied to the old-fashioned candy scattered throughout many pages.  There are peppermints, lollipops, gumdrops and ribbon candy encircling Marie and the Nutcracker on the cover.  As the book goes on, candy sprawls everywhere - it overlaps frames, spills onto streets and of course pops out of presents.  It adds a lush feeling to the story, and one that many children will delight in.  Adults, too, will enjoy seeing the old-fashioned details that make this book unique.

Engelbreit uses multiple frames to help tell the story.  Pages often have several different illustrations to pore over.  On the page where Marie and the Prince enjoy the dancing in Toyland, there is a framed illustration in the middle of the page with Marie and the Prince guessed it, candy.  There are spot illustrations of more food and international dancer fill the rest of the page.  Your eye moves from spot to spot following the line of dancers across the page.  Even though Engelbreit puts a lot on each page, the illustrations do not feel busy.  Instead they convey interest and movement.  This can subtly evoke the whirling dance of the ballet. 

There is one page where there seems to be on odd choice in the illustrations.  During the battle between the mice and soldiers, the text mentions that "Marie was so frightened she fell and bumped her knee."  Yet the illustration focuses on the mouse army.  At the bottom of the page is Marie's head, oversized, peeping from the edge of the page.  There's no evidence of her fall.  In a book where there is limited text and every word counts, either that fact should have been eliminated or it should have been shown to make the fight even more dramatic.  But this is just one small misstep from a veteran illustrator.

I hope you still have room under your tree for one more Christmas title.  This one is fun for young and old readers alike.  Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker reminds me of Christmas candy - sweet, nostalgic and full of flavor.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Mary Engelbreit's Nutcracker.  Mary Engelbreit.  HarperCollins, 2011.

This book was sent to me in galley form by the publisher in hopes I would review it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Energy Island

One of the things I like best about being on the Nonfiction Picture Books panel is the sheer diversity of books we've read.  I've read about subjects like safety for children, howler monkeys and prehistoric life.  Many of these are books I wouldn't have picked up on my own, but I have learned about so many things through these books.  This definitely includes Energy Island.

Energy Island is a small island off the coast of Denmark, which is more properly named Samsø Island.  The islanders had always gotten their energy sources from the mainland - electricity through underwater cables, oil by tanker across the ocean.  I've lived on an island, and although Drummond doesn't mention it here, I know that relying on energy sources being brought to the island can be inconsistent and expensive.  So it should have been a great thing when Samsø Island was chosen as the first Danish community to become energy independent.  The plan was to harness the ever-present wind and use it to create renewable energy.
  Drummond uses a young girl as the narrator of the story.  It is a strong narrative choice because she is relatable to other children.  She also helps bring a younger focus to a story which is populated with the adults of the community.  He uses two types of text to bring Samsø to life.  There is the overarching narrative, which the young girl carries.  This choice brings the information to life, and helps kids get why this is such a unique project.  The narrative also helps a project which is very far away seem more universal.  After all, we all waste energy in various ways and many people don't realize or care about renewable energy sources.  Then there are sidebars with more technical information on various environmental topics that tie in with the narrative.  These sidebars are clearly not part of the story - they are colored green, contrasting with the colors of the illustration, and have a different voice to them.

This book isn't just about energy and the island of Samsø, though.  One of the things that I think this book does best is show the way the community works to build consensus.  At the beginning of the project, all of the adults have reasons why they can't move towards energy independence or don't want to change their ways.  As one or two families agree to try it, then the winds begin to pick up speed, so to speak.  Drummond recounts a storm when everyone on the island loses power, except for the couple of islanders who have wind turbines.  Slowly, people begin to open their minds and experiment with alternative forms of energy.  I think this is a great idea for children to observe - that adults can be stubborn about change, and that their ideas aren't always right.  And it's valuable to see that the leader of the project, a teacher named Søren Hermansen, doesn't give up when the community doesn't want to change.  He keeps working at it and momentum begins to build slowly but surely.

One of the other interesting things about this book is Drummond's illustrative choices.  There is a huge diversity of illustration sizes in this book, and this adds energy (!) to the book.  Many pages have horizontal panel illustrations interspersed with lines of text.  There are also full-page illustrations, spot illustrations and vertical panels.  It keeps your eye moving across the page.  The variety of sizes also allows Drummond to show a lot of information without it becoming overwhelming.

There are a few problematic items in this book for me.  They are minor, but worth discussing.  I am really looking at back matter for the nonfiction titles I read this fall, and this book only has a single website as reference.  When I went to look at the website, I found that the link no longer works.  This is a real problem in a book that was just published this year.  And the concept of an island that is totally energy-independent is so interesting that I can't understand why there aren't more connections for interested young readers.

Drummond does include an author's note with a New Yorker article cited.  But an article in the New Yorker isn't appropriate for most children, so it is only helpful as his own starting point.  Drummond also notes in his author's note that he has compressed events to fit it all in the timeline he had set up.  I appreciate that he has brought this to light so that we are aware that his narrative isn't totally true to life.  One last criticism is that the book gives no specific dates.  Everything takes place "a few years ago"  or things take "several years".  While I understand that exact dates might not have fit into his narrative style, it gives you an unmoored feeling - does it take place in the 90's? the 70's?  Readers have no idea.  This book may have benefited from an extra informational page on Samsø or perhaps a sidebar with additional information.

All in all, though, this book gave me a look at a place I had no idea existed.  Energy Island is fascinating, and it's a great story to inspire readers to change their ways.

Note: I am on the Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book panel, but this blog post does not represent the committee's thoughts about the book.  It only represents my personal ideas and thoughts.
Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World.  Allan Drummond.  Frances Foster Books: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011.

borrowed from Lewis & Clark library

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Julian Hector Lovefest

I first heard about The Gentleman Bug from John Schu.  When I tweeted that I had read it and loved it after his recommendation, John (I hope it's okay that I call him by his first name, but I feel like I know him!) tweeted back his agreement and included the author on the tweet, Julian Hector.  Then a few weeks later, I read about Arthur Levine's new picture book, Monday is One Day.  When I checked it out from the library, guess who the illustrator is?  That's right, Julian Hector!  So I'm taking a little break from all of the Nonfiction Picture Books to enjoy a Julian Hector lovefest - his illustrative style is so appealing, I know you'll love him too!

When I read (again, on Twitter!) about Monday is One Day, it seemed like it would something my girls and I would really connect with.  As a working mother of two young girls, I have a hard time during the week.  Each day is packed full with work, daycare, driving, eating, errands, baths and reading.  We run from thing to thing all day.  As hard as it is on me, it is doubly hard on the girls.  Life can seem like an endless stream of "have-to's" for them.  Clearly Levine has seen the same thing happen in his own home because the daily grind for children is what this book is about.
Levine starts with the soothing reassurance "The hardest part of going to work is being apart from you."  And then the speaker and their child count the days of the work week until they are free on the weekend.  They start with Monday and Levine combines several techniques successfully here. The book goes through the days of the week both by name and by the day's number.  Monday is one day, and so there is one hug that goes with Monday.  As the week goes on (and the exhaustion of the daily grind increases), there are more and more hugs and kisses.  What is remarkable is that Levine creates a space of peace and togetherness in our hectic lives.  It's a reminder to give our children what they sorely need - love and time together.  The book serves as reassurance to the child, and as an important reminder to parents to slow down and enjoy our children daily.

The illustrations bring Levine's text to life.  The colors are bright, primary color washes.  There is an enormous diversity of families shown in this book, so a child will be able to recognize themselves and their own family here.  That in itself is a comfort - to be able to see so many kinds of families all doing the same thing - going to work and returning to show love.  But Hector also shows love in every picture.  A grandmother and grandfather hug a little boy on a tractor while wind-up dinosaurs stomp around them.  The grandparents' faces are lit up, their bodies turned towards the boy.  They are telling him he is the most important thing in their worlds with every part of their bodies.  Work is simply the thing we all have to do.  But Levine and Hector make sure children understand that as parents we spend every moment wishing we were with our children.  It is a book filled with love, and exactly what we needed in our house right now.  I hate to return it to the library.

The Gentleman Bug is totally different and equally lovable.  The Gentleman Bug is a teacher and a reader who is content with who he is.  He isn't the most dapper bug in The Garden, he isn't the most suave bug, but he loves his books and his students.  That is, until a new Lady Bug comes to town.  He tries to attract her attention, but she always seems to be looking the other way.  So he becomes more of a Gentleman Bug (emphasis on the gentleman), but that doesn't make him comfortable either.  The ending is so sweet and perfect that I won't ruin it here.  But it suits them both perfectly and makes the reader smile.

This book is set in a bug version of Victorian England.  Hector has included a winning map on the endpapers of The Garden where this book takes place.  There are such locations as Bugadilly Circus and HoneyHive Palace.  The endpapers also include labeled cameos of other characters in the story.  This is a beautiful added touch - a way to extend the experience beyond the first reading of the plot.  Readers can go back and follow these characters on their own journey.

The colors in this book are more muted, as fits the period setting.  The colors are gentle, just like the Gentleman Bug.  And I hate to say it, but these bugs are all cute!  Even the tick is friendly, with his legs waving around.  I've seen ticks, and they don't look so affable in real life!  You want to just hug the Gentleman Bug and reassure him as he worries.  There are also small details to pore over on every page.  Hector includes texture everywhere to keep readers' eyes moving.  This is a lush book, with a lot of big houses, towering flowers and an oversized queen.  And yet it is a book about bugs, which immediately shrinks your perspective.  But it is so, so winning and sweet.  I already have a copy on my wishlist for Santa!

I can hardly wait to see what Julian Hector creates next.  Count me in as one of his fans.  Check these books out, and you'll be a fan too!

The Gentleman Bug.  Julian Hector.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010.
Monday is One Day.  Arthur A. Levine; illustrated by Julian Hector.  Scholastic Press: Scholastic, 2011.

Borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thunder Birds

I vividly remember the first bald eagle I ever saw in nature.  Like many of us, I grew up in a time when the bald eagle was endangered (it became endangered in 1967), so I never expected I would see one in the wild.  About ten years ago, a friend was driving along the highway here in Montana, and I was in the passenger seat.  She said "Look there!" and pointed out my window, just as the eagle took flight.  I will never forget that amazing and majestic sight.  It took me by surprise as the eagle soared above us, riding a wind current.  It was an experience I will never forget.

Thunder Birds focuses on nature's flying predators, as the subtitle of this book calls them.  Beginning on the very first page, Arnosky explains how he sought out these birds in wildlife parks, reserves and sanctuaries across the United States.  Just like my experience with that bald eagle, Jim Arnosky loves the birds of prey.  You can hear it in the reverence and respect in his tone as he describes their habits . 

This book feels very personal to me.  While Arnosky has written about his research strategies and his family's involvement in his research in books such as Monster Hunt, Arnosky's introduction begins with his wife, Deanna.  They have traveled together to find all these birds and paint them.  The book is broken up into sections, and almost every section has a personal experience included.  His heart is clearly in this.  Arnoksy tells readers about the time he held a wild eagle by its strong feet so it wouldn't attack while a biologist mended its wing.  He also recounts time spent in the Everglades, monitoring the carcass of an alligator that Black Vultures fed on for a week.  These stories bring the birds to life for young readers, who will definitely be fascinated by Arnosky's experiences.

This book is written with young readers in mind.  Each section includes a narrative page on the group of birds featured, which might include owls, herons and egrets, vultures and others.  The narrative section includes Arnosky's compelling recollections as well as additional information about the group in general.  For instance, on the page about owls, he describes their feathers, and how they allow owls to take prey without any sound.  Then he remembers an owl swooping down on him from behind, without him ever hearing it coming.  It allows readers to envision how they would feel as the owl's prey.

There are four fold-out pages with life-size paintings of different groups.  Each of these fold-out pages includes specific information about the different types of birds within that group.  Each type is identified ("Great Gray Owl") and then Arnosky lists their length, wingspan and their habitat in the United States.  The way the information on the fold-out pages dovetails with the information on the narrative pages is impeccable.  There are small bites of facts for readers who will want to know the nitty-gritty about a particular bird.  There are also facts presented in the longer text to give readers a more overall picture of the group.  It's perfect for readers of any interest level.

The pictures in this book are incredible too.  As I've mentioned, the fold-out pages are almost all life-size birds.  Arnosky makes a point of mentioning if the bird is a different size so readers will be able to envision them correctly (the bald eagle is painted at half-size, for instance).  They are close-up and amazingly realistic.  I was amazed at how real these birds seem.  He has also painted them in their own surroundings - you see the Black Vulture standing possessively on that dead alligator, although there is no gore.  But Arnosky also includes spot illustrations with smaller details of each group, done in pencil.  The loon is shown diving under the water to catch a fish, and on the same page there is a closer look at the loon's sturdy foot.  Notes about these smaller pictures are done in Arnosky's writing, making these look as if they were taken from his sketchbook.  There are also very interesting shadowed looks at different birds' wingspans and how they might look from below.  I think these help make these birds identifiable for children, who will be scanning the skies after reading this.

All of this makes for a very strong book.  It is beautifully illustrated, and the diversity of both the illustrations and the information will make this appealing to readers across the spectrum.  I can see preschoolers looking agape at the enormous birds while older siblings and parents learn more from the text.  Arnosky has included some unusual back matter.  The author's note has a comprehensive list of sites he visited for the book, encouraging readers to visit the birds of prey.  There is a bibliography (with two more of Arnosky's titles included) and then a conversion chart to the metric system for the lengths and wingspans.  This is the perfect book to whet a reader's appetite for the thunder birds.  Hopefully, after reading it, their interest will take flight.

Note: I am on the Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book panel, but this blog post does not represent the committee's thoughts about the book.  It only represents my personal ideas and thoughts.

Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators.  Sterling, 2011.

borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library