Book review: Driftwood Days, by William Miniver, illustrated by Charles Vess

Miniver, William. Driftwood Days. Illustrated by Charles Vess. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780802853707. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Do you know how a branch turns into driftwood? In the autumn, a boy is watching as a branch breaks away from a beaver’s dam and takes an adventure through different seasons floating in the water and landing in the summer on a beach. The boy finds the driftwood and uses it as a pen in the sand, a pirate sword, a sand castle wall, and a souvenir. The illustrations tell the story and the sparse text accents the pages. The illustrations are full of movement and beauty. I live near the beach where we have driftwood, boats and nets. Children in the community I live in can see driftwood every day, however, they may not know the process of how a branch turns into driftwood. I plan on bringing in a branch and a piece of driftwood and reading this story, giving children a visual of the process. This adventure was inspired by the author’s prized piece of driftwood which he found on a beach on Long Island. Vess is a critically acclaimed artist and comic book illustrator who has won many Eisner Awards, Hugo Awards, and World Fantasy Awards. The end of the book includes the Author’s note which explains the importance of driftwood.

Verdict: With the themes of nature, science and discovery, children will enjoy the pictures and be enlightened by the story. While this book is perfect for readers who live along the coast and are exposed to driftwood, it is also a beautiful story that will interest and intrigue all children. I highly recommend it.November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: No Place Like Home, by Ronojoy Ghosh

Ghosh, Ronojoy. No Place Like Home. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2019. Unpaged.  $17.00 ISBN 9780802855220. Ages 3-6. P7Q7

George is one grumpy polar bear who feels like something isn’t quite right. This book follows George’s journey to find where he fits in. From the sea to the highest trees he’s tried it all and nothing feels quite right and George is still grumpy. The story line keeps you engaged and guessing what place George will try next to find where he belongs. The book contains a great lesson that I feel many children and adults can relate to–feeling unhappy or grumpy in a certain situation and having to search for what makes you happy. The book ends with George finally finding where he belongs and finally being happy. Illustrations are pretty plain and basic but also bright in color.

Verdict: A great book to teach children to find something that makes them happy or a place where they feel they fit in. Also a great reminder that every situation/place/sport isn’t for everyone and it is okay to find what makes you happy.

October 2019 review by Melissa Roberts.

Book review: Get on Your Bike, by Joukje Akveld, illustrated by Philip Hopman, translated by Laura Watkinson

Akveld, Joukje. Get on your bike. Illust. Philip Hopman. Trans. Laura Watkinson. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2018 (org. 2014). $18.00. ISBN 9780802854896. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Get on your bike is an English translation of Ga toch fietsen! Originally published in Dutch, the story centers around William and Bobby (org. Willem and Boese), an argument, and how one of the characters finds a constructive way to burn off steam and gain perspective when he’s angry. Hopman packs plenty of activity into his detailed, page-filling illustrations à la Richard Scarry. The peripheral characters often look and gesture at the reader, acknowledging our presence. Get on your bike will be appreciated by young wheel enthusiasts and features charming European cultural objects and architecture.

Verdict: The story depicts a healthy way to process negative feelings, promotes outdoor activity, and provides examples of fossil fuel free transportation. It could accompany a unit on relationships or emotions.

April 2019 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: The Little Barbarian, by Renato Moriconi

Moriconi, Renato. The Little Barbarian. Eerdmans, 2018. $17.00. unp. ISBN 978-0-8028-5509-1. Ages 3-6. P8Q8

This Brazilian import begins with a brave warrior with shield and sword mounting his trusty steed and then jumping across a chasm and then facing dangers—snakes, one-eyed primitives with spears, carnivorous plants, flying devils, fearsome monsters, fire, etc.—before a rescue from a tall, god-like figure. The ending reveals that the entire adventure was a small boy’s fantasy.

Verdict: The tall, narrow format of the wordless book allows for an attractive layout of colorful watercolor figures against a white background as the warrior fearlessly moves from the page’s bottom to the top and back to the top before he sits at the bottom of three white two-page spread as his face shows more and more dismay. This excellent view of a small boy’s imaginary adventures provides a comforting conclusion in trusting an adult, likely a father. Delightful!

March 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Blue Hour, by Isabelle Simler

Simler, Isabelle. The Blue Hour. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017. Originally published in French in 2015. $19.00. ISBN 9780802854889. Unpaged. Ages 4-6. P9Q9

This is a very lovely picture book about the blue hour- the hour before true dark. All the artwork, depicting plants, insects and animals, is in shades of blue, beginning with spreads in lighter values and getting darker with the approaching nighttime. Here and there are spots of vivid color that make the illustrations glow. There is a color chart in the opening end pages, and a map showing where the various plants and animals live. The last spread shows a full moon set against a very dark blue scene, and the silhouettes of animals waiting for the dark. The text is scant, but beautiful and poetic, and shows us the beauty of nighttime.

VERDICT: This beautiful book will be a peaceful, serene bedtime book for families at home. I can also see it being used in art classrooms. I wasn’t able to learn what the art technique or media used here was- I would love to know more about this!

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Nile Crossing, by Katy Beebe, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

Beebe, Katy. Nile Crossing. illus. Sally Wern Comport. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017. unp.  Includes glossary. $18.00. ISBN: 978-0-8028-5425-4. Gr. All. P8 Q9

In ancient Egypt, Khepri is awakened so that he too may start his schooling. The story unfolds in a rhyming text that tells of Khepri’s journey across the Nile in a reed boat with his father on their way to the school in city of Thebes. The author included additional details about writing and school in ancient Egypt at the end of the book. The richly colored illustrations, created digitally along with pastels and acrylic paint, are striking, giving the reader a visual sense of this time period.

Verdict: Up and coming Egyptologists will be impressed with this visually detailed story.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Plume, by Isabelle Simler

Simler, Isabelle. Plume. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017. $18.00. ISBN 9780802854926. Unp. Ages 3-7. P7 Q9

There are plenty of reasons to appreciate birds. Plume, a cat, has a different reason than most felines—the love of feathers. In Plume, named for the furry feather aficionado we follow through this book, the reader encounters beautiful illustrations of birds and their feathers. Text is limited to leave space for this artwork.

Verdict: Plume is a very visual work. It should be included in any classroom discussion about birds. It would also be useful in an art class in which students create their own feather designs.

June 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.