This clever rhyming text explores an interesting addition problem. It was delightful to read aloud, the pictures are fun to look at, and the last page is deeply satisfying as you figure out what all those preparatory addition problems were about!

100 Snowmen by Jen Arena, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin. Scholastic: 2013.


A global warming primer for elementary school students, this book has a surprising narrator, who introduces herself right on the first page:

I am your sun, your golden star. Even from 93 million miles away, I warm your land, your seas, your air, and chase the darkness from your days. My energy gives light and life to your tiny Earth.”

The sun explains to us how using fossil fuels is really using the energy of the sun and then details the dangers in our so quickly using up so many years’ worth of stored up sunlight, arguing that we should be trying to use less energy and looking for new ways to get power for our everyday life.

The science here is challenging but clearly explained. The back matter is long (around 2000 words!) and detailed. The pictures are gorgeous–but who would ever expect less from Molly Bang?

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth, by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, illustrated by Molly Bang. Blue Sky Press: 2014.

This brilliantly written book explores the differences and similarities between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and how they helped shape their cooperation in making a new nation. The book starts with a strong opening:

The true story of how one gentleman–short and stout–and another–tall and lean–formed a surprising alliance, committed treason, and helped launch a new nation.

Kerley uses that lively narrative voice through the book. She chooses strong, interesting words that make the text leap to life:

He lunged, parried, and skewered the policies of King George and his government.

Her quotations, deftly woven in, make the two men spring to life:

“You should do it,” Tom told him. “Oh! No,” John exclaimed. Any declaration he wrote would be severely criticized, for some delegates, he conceded, found him “obnoxious.”

I felt weepy by the end of the back matter, stunned with gratitude for the foolish and human but visionary men who built the United States.

Those Rebels, John and Tom, by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Scholastic: 2012.

How do you summarize a life like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s for a picture book biography? Barbara Kerley did it by choosing one theme–Emerson’s desire for a home–and follows it throughout his life. We see him longing for a home as a child, building a home and community with his wife, losing his home to a fire, and in old age finding his home restored by the community he had built. It’s a hopeful, lovely message.

And it is brilliantly executed. The quotations–how could there not be quotations in a book about Emerson?–are seamlessly incorporated into the text:

He wandered the narrow noisy streets of Boston dreaming of “a home, comfortable and pleasant.”

And they settled into, as he put it, “the lukewarm milky dog days of common village life.”

Kerley zeroes in on memorable details and renders them with an ear tuned to reading aloud:

Every morning, Mr. Emerson ate pie made from his own apples for breakfast.

The book is filled with delightful lists:

[He shared] the names of birds and varieties of pears: Bluebird, bobolink, robin, thrush. Flemish Beauty, Andrews, Bartlett, Dix.

Edwin Fotheringham’s whimsical illustrations amplify the excellent prose. A great read!

A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Scholastic: 2014